DOZENS of lorry-drivers were arriving safely back in mainland Europe today after an urgent and successful Christmas operation at Newhaven port in Sussex.
Teams of volunteers from the NHS, along with St John Ambulance and British Red Cross volunteers, worked late into the night and early in the morning to help the drivers get Covid tests to allow them to board ferries to Dieppe in France.
More than 100 freight lorries, some of who had been waiting at the port since Sunday, were able to board the last two sailings before Christmas, after their drivers showed they were virus-free and had bookings for the ferry.
Hauliers continue to be asked not to come to the port unless they have already reserved a crossing with ferry operator DFDS. Only lorries with a booking are able to travel from Newhaven. Drivers also need to be able to show a negative Covid result, from a test conducted no more than 72 hours before travelling.
The urgent testing operation was scrambled by the Sussex Resilience Forum, a consortium of emergency services, NHS, local authorities and other partners, working with Newhaven Port and DFDS.
Officers from East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service and Sussex Police co-ordinated the testing operation at the port, which was carried out by volunteer NHS staff, including from South East Coast Ambulance Service and East Sussex Healthcare Trust.
Most had already worked a full shift at their day jobs before volunteering to go to the port to help the drivers. It followed the French government’s requirement that a negative Covid test would be needed for anyone entering the country from the UK after a variant strain of the virus was identified here.
Rupert Clubb, from the Sussex Resilience Forum, said: ‘This was an exceptional effort from many volunteers and staff who created the operation from scratch at short notice and worked very long hours to deliver it. We’re very pleased and relieved for the drivers who will now be able to join their loved ones for the Christmas break.”