Extra 800 troops sent to help clear Kent lorry backlog

A further 800 military personnel have been sent to Kent to help thousands of lorry drivers waiting to cross into France on Christmas Day.

Some 1,100 troops have now been deployed as part of the operation at the English Channel border after French Covid-19 restrictions caused severe disruption at the Port of Dover.

Thousands of hauliers are spending Christmas Day in their cabs despite efforts to clear the backlog of lorries.

Army personnel will be testing drivers for coronavirus and distributing food and water, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.

More than 700 hauliers have been cleared for departure since France reopened its border on Wednesday, and a chorus of beeping horns sounded at Dover on Christmas Eve as those at the front of the queue celebrated finally being able to leave.

However, about 5,000 remain unable to get home yet, despite some progress in testing drivers in their vehicles at nearby Manston Airport, on a closed section of the M20, and in the town of Dover itself.

Some have already spent nearly a week stranded due to the diplomatic impasse.

Traffic was moving smoothly through Dover on Friday morning, with French firefighters drafted in to help test drivers.

Southeastern railway and Network Rail arranged for food to be delivered to drivers stuck in Operation Brock on the M20.

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Christmas Day around the world
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Christmas Day around the world
Health workers wearing Christmas-themed accessories put on personal protective equipment in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Ayeyarwady Covid Centre in Mandalay, Myanmar, on December 25, 2020, Christmas Day, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Ye Aung Thu / AFP) (Photo by YE AUNG THU/AFP via Getty Images)
Activities coordinator Claire Paver (centre) walks with Mary Orme and her son Michael McKimm as they arrive for a Christmas Day visit with their mother and grandmother, Rose McKimm, at Aspen Hill Village care home in Hunslet, Leeds. The care home is able to host almost 50 visits for family members this Christmas after running successful trials of lateral flow testing for coronavirus. (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
Children wearing Santa Claus hats play during a Christmas Day party amid the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic in the capital Dhaka, Bangladesh, on December 25, 2020. (Photo by Mamunur Rashid/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
TURIN, ITALY - DECEMBER 25: The photographer's family members sit at the table for Christmas lunch with around printed photographs of relatives placed on chairs to recreate a normal Christmas day on December 25, 2020 in Turin, Italy. Italy prepares for the holiday period and while Covid-19 contagions lower, the Italian National Institute of Statistics warns over 73000 businesses closures, among which 13000 won't open again due to the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by Stefano Guidi/Getty Images)
A healthcare worker dressed as Santa Claus prepares to distribute gifts to children at the Ayeyarwady Covid Centre in Mandalay, Myanmar, on December 25, 2020, Christmas Day, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Ye Aung Thu / AFP) (Photo by YE AUNG THU/AFP via Getty Images)
Indonesian Christian wearing protective face mask and Santa Claus hat make a pilgrimage to the grave of his family who died from Covid-19 coronavirus, during the 2020 Christmast day at the Covid-19 burial complex in the Pondok Rangon public cemetery, East Jakarta, on December 25, 2020. (Photo by Aditya Irawan/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 26: An employee sprays disinfectant on a shopper's hand at Chadstone The Fashion Captial during the Boxing Day sales on December 26, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Australians celebrate Boxing Day with many taking advantage of the post-Christmas sale prices in what is usually the busiest day of the year for retailers in Australia. Extra safety protocols have been introduced this year, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Naomi Rahim/Getty Images)
Nuns wears face mask as they attends Christmas Day Mass at Holy Rosary Church on December 25, 2020 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. As Christians around the world celebrate Christmas, many have had to adapt as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forces churches to close or implement measures such as social distancing and reduced services. (Photo by Ahmed Salahuddin/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Patrick Corkery (left) goes for a dip with Rachel and Sophie Moore from Sandycove during the Christmas Day swim at the Forty Foot bathing spot in Sandycove Dublin. (Photo by Damien Storan/PA Images via Getty Images)
A woman wearing a santa hat bodyboarding on Christmas Day at Tynemouth Beach on the North East coast. (Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 25: A member of the public takes advantage of the traffic free Tower Bridge while posing for a picture on December 25, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. Last week, the British government scrapped a plan to allow household mixing in England for five days over Christmas. In London and southeast, household mixing was banned, and in other parts of the country indoor meetups were confined to Christmas Day. (Photo by Joseph Okpako/Getty Images)
Activities coordinator Claire Paver (centre) walks with Mary Orme and her son Michael McKimm as they arrive for a Christmas Day visit with their mother and grandmother, Rose McKimm, at Aspen Hill Village care home in Hunslet, Leeds. The care home is able to host almost 50 visits for family members this Christmas after running successful trials of lateral flow testing for coronavirus. (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
Volunteer steward Tom Swan (right) checks the ticket of John Crowe as Christmas Day mass gets underway at Saint Mary's Pro-Cathedral Parish in Dublin. (Photo by Damien Storan/PA Images via Getty Images)
BOLOGNA, ITALY - DECEMBER 25: Christmas atmosphere at Covid Unit of the Sant'Orsola hospital on December 25, 2020 in Bologna, Italy. (Photo by Roberto Serra - Iguana Press/Getty Images)
People venture out for a swim in the approximately six degrees Celsius cold sea water on a sunny Christmas day, at Vejers Beach (Vejers Strand) in Jutland, Denmark, on December 25, 2020. (Photo by John Randeris HANSEN / Ritzau Scanpix / AFP) / Denmark OUT (Photo by JOHN RANDERIS HANSEN/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images)
TURIN, ITALY - DECEMBER 25: The photographer's family members sit at the table for Christmas lunch with around printed photographs of relatives placed on chairs to recreate a normal Christmas day on December 25, 2020 in Turin, Italy. Italy prepares for the holiday period and while Covid-19 contagions lower, the Italian National Institute of Statistics warns over 73000 businesses closures, among which 13000 won't open again due to the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by Stefano Guidi/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 25: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Nurse Marta Ayné visit Covid-19 patients on Christmas Day at the Covid-19 ward at Hospital del Mar on December 25, 2020 in Barcelona, Spain. Spain has reported a recent increase in Covid-19 cases throughout the country this month, prompting many regional governments to introduce tighter restrictions on gatherings over the Christmas period. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
25 December 2020, Saxony, Dresden: Bishop Heinrich Timmerevers celebrates the High Mass for Christmas in Dresden Cathedral on Christmas Day with a small number of faithful who had to register in advance for this service. Photo: Matthias Rietschel/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa (Photo by Matthias Rietschel/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Mary Orme (right) and her son Michael McKimm embrace their mother and grandmother, Rose McKimm, during a Christmas Day visit at Aspen Hill Village care home in Hunslet, Leeds. The care home is able to host almost 50 visits for family members this Christmas after running successful trials of lateral flow testing for coronavirus. (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 25: A group of friends sit on the edge of an empty Bondi Beach on December 25, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. December is one of the hottest months of the year across Australia, with Christmas Day traditionally involving a trip to the beach and celebrations outdoors. (Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)
A woman holds a child dressed as Santa Claus on Christmas Day in Srinagar on December 25, 2020. (Photo by TAUSEEF MUSTAFA / AFP) (Photo by TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP via Getty Images)
Mary Orme and her son Michael McKimm arrive for a Christmas Day visit with their mother and grandmother, Rose McKimm, at Aspen Hill Village care home in Hunslet, Leeds. The care home is able to host almost 50 visits for family members this Christmas after running successful trials of lateral flow testing for coronavirus. (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
People attend the Midnight Mass at the Saint Sulpice Church in Paris on December 24, 2020, despite the Covid-19 pandemic. The Midnight Mass is the traditional mass of the Catholics that precedes Christmas Day, on Christmas Eve. (Photo by Adnan Farzat/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A swimmer in a santa hat takes a Christmas Day dip at the Serpentine, in central London. The Peter Pan Cup, the race organised annually on Christmas Day by the Serpentine Swimming Club, has been cancelled due to the coronavirus restrictions in Tier 4 London. (Photo by Aaron Chown/PA Images via Getty Images)
Christian devotees attend a prayer service on Christmas Day at the Sacred Heart Cathedral, in Lahore on December 25, 2020.  (Photo by Arif ALI / AFP) (Photo by ARIF ALI/AFP via Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 25: A woman wearing antlers looks at Bondi Beach on December 25, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. December is one of the hottest months of the year across Australia, with Christmas Day traditionally involving a trip to the beach and celebrations outdoors. (Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images)
Police officers wearing face masks patrol at the Kabukicho entertainment district in Tokyo on Christmas day on December 25, 2020. (Photo by STR / JIJI PRESS / AFP) / Japan OUT (Photo by STR/JIJI PRESS/AFP via Getty Images)
Christian devotees attend a prayer service on Christmas Day in a church in Srinagar on December 25, 2020. (Photo by TAUSEEF MUSTAFA / AFP) (Photo by TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP via Getty Images)
KATHMANDU, NEPAL - 2020/12/24: Nepalese boys and girls dressed as Santa Claus takes part in the Christmas carols as they celebrate Christmas eve at HCM Church. Christmas Eve is the evening or entire day before Christmas Day, the festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas Day is observed around the world. (Photo by Prabin Ranabhat/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 25: Children look on as Father James Collins lights candles during a Christmas Day service at St Paul’s Church in Burwood on December 25, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. December is one of the hottest months of the year across Australia, with Christmas Day traditionally involving a trip to the beach and celebrations outdoors. (Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images)
ROME, ITALY - DECEMBER 24: A Carabinieri checkpoint in Piazza Venezia, in the evening, during the first day of lockdown on Christmas Eve on December 24, 2020 in Rome, Italy. Italy will remain under a nationwide lockdown over the Christmas period, as authorities seek to avoid further spikes in coronavirus infections. Italy, currently in a second wave, is still one of Europe's worst hit countries with 1.98 million people infected with the virus. (Photo by Fabrizio Villa/Getty Images)
December 24, 2020 - Orlando, Florida, United States - Travelers wearing face masks arrive at Orlando International Airport on the day before Christmas, ignoring health experts who recommend against holiday travel as the coronavirus pandemic hits record levels across the United States, on December 24, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Nurses receive gifts during Christmas Day in the Dr. Jose Manuel de los Rios Children Hospital, in Caracas, on December 24, 2020. (Photo by Cristian Hernandez / AFP) (Photo by CRISTIAN HERNANDEZ/AFP via Getty Images)
A girl wears a christmas hat as she and her mom wait to receive gifts during Christmas Day in the Dr. Jose Manuel de los Rios Children Hospital, in Caracas, on December 24, 2020. (Photo by Cristian Hernandez / AFP) (Photo by CRISTIAN HERNANDEZ/AFP via Getty Images)
CASCAIS, PORTUGAL - DECEMBER 24: A people wear protective masks while walking on the promenade above Praia da Duquesa on the afternoon before Christmas during the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic on December 24, 2020 in Cascais, Portugal. Cascais still attracts tourists and locals even with the country under state of emergency until 07 January while facing a second wave of COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Horacio Villalobos#Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 24: People dressed a Father Christmas roller blade on Oxford Street on December 24, 2020 in London, England. London and large parts of southern England were moved into a newly created "Tier 4" lockdown, closing non-essential shops and limiting household mixing. The government also scrapped a plan to allow multi-household "bubbles" to form for over a 5-day period around Christmas. (Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 24: A deserted Kings Cross Station mid afternoon on Christmas Eve on December 24, 2020 in London, England. London and large parts of southern England were moved into a newly created "Tier 4" lockdown, closing non-essential shops and limiting household mixing. The government also scrapped a plan to allow multi-household "bubbles" to form for over a 5-day period around Christmas. (Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 24: Covid-19 messages are seen on screens throughout Manchester City Centre on December 24, 2020 in Manchester, England. The city's shops remained open in the days before Christmas under the more permissive "Tier 3" of England's covid-19 measures. Other parts of England will enter "Tier 4," in which non-essential stores are closed, as of Boxing Day. (Photo by Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 24: People wearing Christmas hats are seen shopping in Manchester City Centre on December 24, 2020 in Manchester, England. The city's shops remained open in the days before Christmas under the more permissive "Tier 3" of England's covid-19 measures. Other parts of England will enter "Tier 4," in which non-essential stores are closed, as of Boxing Day. (Photo by Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images)
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Seven trains carrying crates of food for the hauliers have left London in the past 48 hours, with the Salvation Army distributing the items.

France closed its border last Sunday following the discovery of a fast-spreading mutant Covid-19 strain in the UK. Drivers must now show proof of a negative coronavirus test result before crossing into the country.

The MoD said additional soldiers had been deployed on Friday as part of Operation Rose to support the 300 personnel already there.

"We are deploying a further 800 personnel to Kent today to support an increase in the testing capabilities to help clear the backlog of vehicles and ensure traffic can begin to move at a closer to normal pace through Dover," the MoD tweeted.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said all but three of the 2,367 coronavirus tests issued to hauliers so far had been negative.

I've sent special instructions to the Army to run testing and HGV logistic operations in Kent. Following the disruption caused by the French Govt's sudden imposition of Covid restrictions, foreign hauliers are on the move trying to reach home for Christmas. pic.twitter.com/kPl8RUdaTp

— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) December 24, 2020

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "We need to get the situation in Kent, caused by the French government's sudden imposition of Covid restrictions, resolved as soon as possible.

"I have today sent special instructions to the Army to take control of testing and HGV management operations in the county. Our aim is to get foreign hauliers home with their families as quickly as we can.

"I know it's been hard for many drivers cooped up in their cabs at this precious time of year, but I assure them that we are doing our utmost to get them home."

The Government said catering vans would provide hot food and drinks to hauliers stranded at Manston, with Kent County Council and volunteer groups providing refreshments to those stuck on the M20.

There are more than 250 toilets at Manston, with a further 32 portable toilets added to existing facilities on the M20.

A Port of Dover spokesman said ferry services ran throughout Christmas Eve night and will continue on Christmas Day to help ease congestion.

Traffic was moving more quickly at the Eurotunnel on Thursday, with around 2,000 lorries expected to depart during the day.

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