CALAIS, France – Freight from Britain and passengers with a negative virus test began arriving on French shores Wednesday, after France relaxed a two-day blockade over a new virus variant that had isolated Britain, stranded thousands of drivers and raised fears of shortages.
Associated Press reporters witnessed a ferry pulling into the French port of Calais before dawn and trains carrying freight and car passengers were allowed to cross to the continent beneath the English Channel again.
People arriving from Britain are required to have a virus test capable of detecting the new variant, according to a late-night agreement reached after 48 hours of frenzied negotiations among French, British and EU authorities. European nations and others around the world began slamming borders shut to Britain on Sunday, a day after the U.K. prime minister announced that the new variant was mostly responsible for an enormous surge in new infections in London and southern England and he was imposing tight new lockdown restrictions.
The company that runs the Eurotunnel said Wednesday that truck drivers lined up on the highway leading to the English port of Dover are being tested for the virus, but that it may take some time to for traffic to resume as normal after massive backup.
Calais is a major conduit for trade and travel between Britain and the continent, and France had argued that the blockade was necessary in order to work out safety measures to protect European citizens.
The French travel restrictions had angered and worried many in the U.K. because the nation relies heavily on its cross-Channel commercial links to the continent for food at this time of year, especially for fruit and fresh produce.