More than 66,000 hauliers have so far been tested at the Channel crossing with only “very low levels” of coronavirus detected, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has told Sky News.
The cabinet minister said there were currently no plans for tougher checks being introduced for visitors to France to apply to lorry drivers, who would continue to be subject to quicker lateral flow tests (LFTs).
It came amid reports that the UK’s healthcare regulator was withholding approval for the use of LFTs – which generate results in less than 30 minutes – in schools.
After the chaos seen at Dover when France shut the border before Christmas in response to a mutant UK coronavirus strain, Mr Shapps said there was now no disruption either because of COVID-19 testing or post-Brexit paperwork and looked forward to the continued “smooth operation” of the busy trade crossing.
Mr Shapps said: “We are testing hauliers, about 66,000 of them so far. For the time being its lateral flow testing.
“It’s the world’s biggest testing of lorry drivers anywhere and we are finding very low levels of coronavirus something like 0.3%, which is much lower than the national average here or in France.
“That’s because these long distance drivers live in their lorries by and large, they sleep in their cabs.
“It’s actually quite solitary arrangements and it means they are not very likely to be carrying the coronavirus around – not as likely as the rest of the population.”
While France was bringing in more rigorous PCR tests for visitors, this did not include hauliers, said Mr Shapps.
He added: “We are in lockdown, no one should be moving, no one should be visiting in any case.
“We have this arrangement with regard to hauliers so this is so our goods and services, our food and medicine can carry on flowing across to Calais.
“In that case they are able to take lateral flow tests, the advantage being the test results come within about 30 minutes.
“That situation is unchanged.”
Mr Shapps went on: “There have been no queues and no disruption either through the COVID testing or indeed the new paperwork that has come in at the borders in this last couple of weeks and we look forward to continue to seeing smooth operation down in Kent as well.”