Lorry drivers arriving in England from the continent will need to start taking regular Covid tests if they stay for longer than 48 hours, Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, has announced.
Shapps said the move was being taken in response to the recent decision by the French government to let hauliers who have spent more than 48 hours in the UK return to France without having to produce a negative Covid test.
Shapps announced the move on Twitter, saying it would help enable the UK to keep track of any future coronavirus variants of concern.
Hauliers are among the workers exempt from the standard English quarantine rules that require people arriving in the country to self-isolate for 10 days and take two tests during that period.
But with cases rising sharply in France, and the South African and Brazilian variants also in circulation in the country, there has been increasing concern about the potential risk posed by cross-Channel lorry traffic.
At the liaison committee on Wednesday, Boris Johnson said the government was considering “more stringent” measures for hauliers, although he also stressed there could be an economic cost.
“Just remember, 75% of our medicines and 50% of our food come through the short straits, so there are consequences [to tightening restrictions],” he said.
The French government had been allowing lorry drivers returning to the country after less than 48 hours in the UK to do so without having to produce a negative test. But recently drivers who had been in the UK for longer were also made exempt.
Shapps said the new rule for hauliers entering England would come into force from 6 April. If drivers stay in the country for more than two days, they will need to take a lateral flow Covid test within 48 hours, and then another every 72 hours while they remain.
Truck drivers from the rest of the UK and from the common travel area – Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man – would be exempt, Shapps said.