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UK opens 20 COVID-19 testing sites for France-bound hauliers to reduce disruption

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By Euronews
Soldiers carry out a COVID test on a driver at the entrance to The Port of Dover in Kent, England, Friday, Dec. 25, 2020.
Soldiers carry out a COVID test on a driver at the entrance to The Port of Dover in Kent, England, Friday, Dec. 25, 2020.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
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Britain is opening more than 20 COVID testing centres for hauliers heading to France to reduce disruption at the border.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced on Saturday that 10 testing centres had been created across the country, with a further 10 opening on Sunday. More are to be added in the coming days.

Businesses that can set up their own testing sites on their premises will be provided with kits free of charge, the government also said.

The UK's move comes after thousands of hauliers were stranded in Kent in the last week of December after France closed its border over concerns about a new, highly-transmissible, variant of COVID-19 discovered in the UK.

France reopened its border within days but demanded that any haulier entering the country via the UK show a negative coronavirus test taken within the previous 72 hours.

Half of the new testing sites are to be manned by the military who will use lateral flow devices that provide results within the hour.

Hauliers who have carried out the test in some the sites dotted around the country will have their access to ports in Kent fast-tracked.

"If we are to keep traffic flowing in Kent, it is essential that drivers are tested before they travel down to the area and that they have a Kent Access Permit before heading to the border, and these new testing centres both at service stations and inside businesses, will help reduce delays, Shapps said.

The UK infection tally grew by more than 57,700 on Saturday — the fifth day in a row that cases have topped 50,000. The death toll increased by 445 to 74,570.

Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director for Public Health England, said the lastest figures "are a stark reminder that, as we leave 2020 behind, we are not yet out of the woods — transmission is very high and many lives are still tragically being lost."