Fears of return to pre-Christmas Channel chaos as France bans rapid coronavirus tests

France is outlawing the use of rapid – but less-accurate – Covid-19 tests for non-EU travellers, raising the risk of a return to the pre-Christmas chaos in Kent.

Grant Shapps said he believed there would be an exemption for lorry-drivers to continue to receive the 30-minute tests – but admitted that was the situation only “for the time being”.

Last month, tens of thousands of drivers were stranded in Kent and there were clashes with the police when France banned lorry drivers to try to stop the spread of the new UK strain of coronavirus.

The crisis was only resolved when hauliers were given the rapid lateral flow tests, which Paris has now decided to ban for arrivals from outside the EU.

Mr Shapps, the Transport Secretary, said his French counterpart would visit on Monday to see “how we are applying” the 30-minute tests.

 “That’s the system in place and that’s what’s continuing for the time being,” he told BBC Breakfast.

Jean Castex, the French prime minister, said on Thursday night that its nationwide night-time curfew would begin at 6pm on Saturday and remain in force for at least two weeks.

A negative PCR, or laboratory, test less than 72 hours old would be required for arrivals from non-EU destinations – the same system the UK is introducing from Monday.

Everybody with a negative result would have to self-isolate for seven days and would then take, and pass, a second PCR test.

The original French travel ban came before the UK left the EU single market and customs union, on New Year’s Day, creating a mountain of new paperwork for businesses.

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