France could insist on 'gold standard' Covid tests for hauliers, causing gridlock, ministers fear
France could still ramp up border Covid tests for hauliers, ministers fear, as trade bodies warned that the move could cause gridlock in Kent and beyond.
On Friday, French ministers assured the Government that truck drivers would remain exempt from the requirement to take the "gold standard" PCR tests for now and could continue to cross the Channel after having rapid lateral flow tests.
However, sources said UK ministers had not ruled out the possibility that the French could still require the "gold standard" tests, for which results can take up to 72 hours to come back - a delay that would threaten chaos for haulage businesses.
French officials have been invited by the Government to visit the testing site at Manston airfield, in Kent, to reassure them that the Army-led testing operation is thorough and effective. Rod McKenzie, the director of policy at the Road Haulage Association (RHA), said the introduction of PCR tests would be "disastrous". He warned: "The situation is already very serious, with an extra 30 minutes for lateral flow and the additional paperwork.
It would make a bad situation worse. "It would mean that you would be facing a 72-hour delay to all your results. It would be the French economy that would suffer.
For example, we had a case of a load of shellfish destined for France for five days that had to be thrown away. This is good business lost." Asked on Friday about suggestions that France may require PCR tests, Grant Shapps, the Transport Seceretary, said: "We have a particular arrangement with the French regarding the hauliers, this is the lorry drivers, with tests which are called the lateral flow tests.
And that remains in place at the moment."
Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, the French transport minister, said: "The provisions applicable to road hauliers coming from Britain are maintained while waiting for a co-ordinated plan between European countries."
France had announced on Thursday that people travelling from non-EU countries would no longer be able to enter the country by presenting a negative result from a quick, readily-available Covid test.