With Christmas now well and truly over, the last of the Portuguese truckers stuck in UK because of the furore over a ‘new variant’ of the Covid virus (click here ) are likely to make it across the English Channel and into France by the end of today.
Drivers’ union ANTRAM stresses that “political responsibilities” for the fiasco “will have to be assumed”.
It’s not simply that drivers themselves have been through hell, but that their companies have suffered major financial consequences. Losses have been set at around €3 million.
Said spokesperson André Matias de Almeida this morning “we believe that the more than 100 drivers who haven’t yet passed the frontier should have done so by the end of the day and finally be on their way home…”
But there are other concerns too. Explained Matias de Almeida, of the 3000 or so drivers of all nationalities caught up in the blockade, only a tiny handful (not more than five) tested positive for Covid-19.
The lateral flow tests however will only have given a ‘rough idea’ of infections. Drivers incubating the virus will have been missed, he said.
And due to the fact that so many of them were ‘stuck going nowhere’ in queues, there was a lot of ‘mixing over the last few days’ which would never have occurred had the drivers all been in transit in their own trucks.
Who is going to take responsibility for the possibility that “many more infected drivers may be bringing this new variant to continental Europe?” questions Matias de Almeida.
Spain, for example, has today reported at least four cases of the new variant – all in people who recently arrived from UK.
But none of them are seriously ill. The variant, though more transmissible “does not cause more serious illness”, Spain’s deputy health chief Antonio Zapatero has admitted.
Indeed there have been suggestions it causes a much lighter form of the illness (click here).
That said, Antram’s only concern is that this miserable cameo within the full-blown drama of the pandemic isn’t ‘glossed over’ in that hundreds of Portuguese drivers and their companies suffered wholly unnecessary financial (physical and psychological) consequences.