The government is set to introduce COVID testing for lorry drivers entering the UK from mainland Europe, Sky News understands.
The Department for Transport has not confirmed the move, but sources have told Sky News that hauliers crossing from France will be included, with the potential for other European countries to be impacted as well.
Lorry drivers coming into the UK had previously been exempt from testing requirements.
It’s understood the rapid lateral flow tests will take place on the UK side, but the new regime – details of which were first reported by the Daily Telegraph – would not be introduced immediately.
If a lorry driver tests positive then the result would be re-run using a PCR test and accommodation provided for isolation if an infection is confirmed.
France last month eased mandatory testing requirements for hauliers travelling from the UK.
The measure that had been in place since December and caused pre-Christmas border chaos as the government scrambled to introduce testing facilities near Channel ports.
A government spokesperson said: “COVID testing requirements for hauliers leaving the country have changed, with France removing its requirement for a negative test before they enter from the UK.
“Hauliers travelling to some countries will still require a negative test, so they should check the entry requirements of the countries they plan to travel to.
“We are carefully monitoring the increase in cases in Europe and will keep all measures under review as we cautiously remove restrictions throughout our roadmap.”
Rod McKenzie, managing director of policy and public affairs at the Road Haulage Association, said his members were still awaiting details from the Department for Transport.
He tweeted that, if confirmed, the move “shouldn’t cause the chaos we saw at Christmas because testing infrastructure here is now in place and works well”.
However there are concerns that some supplies could be disrupted if lorries coming into the UK are held up in Kent while drivers isolate.
Any impact is likely to be minimal though because of the small percentage of drivers who test positive.
Labour MP Yvette Cooper, the chair of the House of Commons’ home affairs committee, called for confirmation of the move from the government “as fast as possible”.
“It makes no sense to exclude hauliers from the testing system at a time when France has up to 3,000 new cases of the South Africa variant a day,” she said.
“Given the potential threat that the South Africa variant poses to our vaccine programme and the plans for lifting lockdown, we cannot afford any more delays in getting stronger border measures in place.
“Hauliers travelling to France have been tested since Christmas so we know the system is workable. Of course it’s possible to test hauliers arriving here.
“Too often there have been delays introducing border measures to stop COVID or new variants spreading.
“The government needs to learn those lessons and act swiftly now”.
First Published by Sky News – Rob Powell