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Eyewitness: The introduction of testing has done little to ease tensions in Dover

By Mark White, home affairs correspondent

All
around the port of Dover all you can hear is the almost constant blast of
vehicle horns.

But
they’re not blaring in celebration of the port’s reopening –  this is raw
anger.

And the days of pent up frustration, stranded in
appalling conditions, finally spilled over into angry clashes with police just
after dawn.

Short scuffles, that continued sporadically
throughout the day and into the evening.

Overnight dozens of lorries, vans and cars had
blocked the main entrance to the ferry terminal.

Behind them,
are many hundreds of other vehicles, lining almost ever street around Dover’s
seafront.

The drivers here are determined not to lose their
place at the front of the queue.

The 26 mile trip to the Covid testing stations at
Manston  airport would see them relegated to the back of a very long
 queue of more than 6,000 lorries.

Those I spoke have already endured more than three
days here.  Potentially adding several more days to that wait is something
they’re simply not willing to contemplate.

I spoke to Lukas, a Polish driver stranded here since
Sunday night, and deeply suspicious of official assertions that rapid Covid
testing was now underway.

“Where
is the British Army to do the tests?” He asks.

I
told him that testing stations had been set up at Manston Airport.

But
he simply didn’t believe me.

“Yeah,
we talk to other drivers on the radio who are at the airport.  They’ve
said there’s no testing there, they’re leaving.”

He’s
partially right, testing has got off to a slow start. After several hours, two
testing stations were up and running at the airport, but have only processed a
relatively small number of lorry drivers.

Some
drivers we saw got fed up of the wait and decided to leave.

And
there’s the added problem of dealing with those who have been tested.

They
can’t come here to Dover ferry port because of the other drivers who’re
blockading the terminal.

Some are leaving by Euro Tunnel, but until the
blockade of the port is dealt with, they can’t get near here.

That promoted a decision by officials to set up a
testing station at the entrance to the terminal.

By mid afternoon dozens of testing staff arrived here
and be early evening they’d began their work.

So those at the front of this queue are finally being
tested, with the aim of getting out on ferries in the hours ahead.

But that’s done little to ease the tensions here.
 People are still highly suspicious of the authorities.

One man was wrestled to the ground and arrested after
he punched a police officer.

And with government officials admitting it’ll take
several more days to deal with the backlog of stranded vehicles, it’s unlikely
we’ve seen the last of the anger outside this port.