Thousands of Portsmouth lorry drivers rapid-tested for Covid-19 to prevent trade gridlock

THOUSANDS of lorry drivers heading out of Portsmouth towards Europe have been tested for Covid-19 since Christmas.

Tuesday, 29th December 2020, 12:34 pm
Updated Tuesday, 29th December 2020, 12:37 pm

At Portsmouth International Port, trade has continued throughout the Christmas period, but every lorry driver leaving the country for EU shores must test negative for coronavirus.

To make this happen, port bosses have enlisted the help of Hampshire Search and Rescue (Hantsar) volunteers to ensure everyone gets tested quickly.

Since Boxing Day, around 1,250 drivers have been through the rapid testing process, getting results back in 30 minutes or less.

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Public profile officer Trevor Vidler said: ‘Current restrictions require that those entering France have proof of a negative Covid-19 test, which has caused a huge number of lorries to be held back.

‘Hantsar was asked on Christmas Eve if any assistance could be provided, starting on December 26 until New Year’s Eve. Teams were allocated and tasked to cover the various sailings, working in shifts of up to 10 hours.

‘At the end of this period volunteers will have covered 17 sailings.

Hampshire Search and Rescue volunteers have been carrying out the rapid Covid-19 testing at Portsmouth International Port. Picture: Hantsar

‘PPE is worn by all the team and disposed of in clinical waste sacks.’

With a number of steps to the rapid testing process, from taking and testing the swabs to helping freight drivers complete their registration cards and necessary paperwork, speed has been of the essence to prevent a build-up of lorries at the port.

For Hantsar, this has been the busiest year on record, with 95 call-outs compared to 80 last year.

Rapid Covid-19 testing at Portsmouth International Port. Picture: Hantsar

While volunteers were stood down on some of these incidents, others – such as the search for murdered teen Louise Smith – took an huge amount on manpower.

Mr Vidler added: ‘While providing this support, as on previous occasions, Hantsar’s primary role continues – to provide qualified teams to assist the police to search for vulnerable missing people 24/7.

‘During this deployment there has been a standby request to assist another county team and also an overnight callout, also to Portsmouth.’

Hantsar and Hampshire Search and Rescue Dogs are the only qualified teams authorised to assist the police in cases.

An all-volunteer charity, it relies entirely on donations to continue operating – to donate, go to platform.nationalfundingscheme.org/HSAR001.

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