Christmas 2020: testimony of a truck driver stuck in the UK with thousands more

Christmas 2020: testimony of a truck driver stuck in the UK with thousands more

For truck drivers, who often go unnoticed, the pandemic year represented a moment of difficulty, but also an opportunity for revenge, revealing how crucial their role was in an emergency. During its last days, 2020 still had reserved an unexpected last challenge for many hauliers: the sudden closure of the France border to vehicles exiting the British territory.
To protect its citizens from the spread of a coronavirus variant detected in the UK, the French government had in fact abruptly blocked any Channel crossing, suspending connections with the United Kingdom and causing traffic jams of thousands of vehicles, just a few days before the Christmas holidays. Jan Liška, a driver who collaborates with FERCAM Slovakia, has now left the annoying experience behind and tells us what it was like to experience these moments firsthand.

"On December 21 I was in London, heading for Dover to cross the English Channel. I got stuck on the M25 ring road, at a petrol station near Cobham, along with hundreds of other vehicles, all piled in the parking lot in multiple rows. It was total chaos, we knew nothing, only that it was not possible to proceed and that we had to stand still waiting for new indications. Only after two days it was clear to us that the French ports had been blocked due to Covid and on December 24 we finally had access to more precise information: they would gradually let us pass, after carrying out a test to see if we had contracted the virus.

Initially, we received instructions to go to Manston airport, Kent, where there is a swab station. In the meantime, however, news of the protests organized by other drivers, gathered in hundreds at the airport and blocked like us for some time, were already spreading. Therefore, they instructed us to remain at the petrol station. Our Christmas present was getting to know that the military had set up a new testing station directly on the M20, before the port in Dover.
The morning of December 26, with great relief, I was able to leave the parking lot where I had spent the previous 5 nights: destination Dover. At the intersection with the M20, however, near the Maidstone exit, the police blocked the motorway. The officers gave clear instructions on the route to follow to reach the other vehicles waiting to carry out the swab test. I queued up 1 km after the detour and I remained in line for 10 consecutive hours. It was one of the most difficult moments to face: without access to toilets and drinking water, and not knowing how long the situation would last. When it was finally my turn to carry out the test, the military showed us the procedure and quickly delivered the result. That night I reached the port of Dover and the next morning I was able to embark on the ferry towards France.

On French soil, no one asked us to see the test result, which was the icing on the cake of frustrations. We had spent days completely in disarray, not understanding what was going to happen. Having to spend Christmas away from my family, in a truck parked at a petrol station, surrounded by nervous and tired strangers, was the worst. Fortunately, I also saw signs of human solidarity, such as when some volunteers gave us food to make it through the long wait in line. I sincerely hope that I will never again have to experience feeling like a hostage at the mercy of other people's decisions, with no choice but to wait, and then wait longer".
trucks uk border
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