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Coronavirus test centre ‘shut to make way for Brexit lorry park’

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Invicta Kent Media/REX (10643863g) Ebbsfeet Testing Centre.A steady stream of customers were turning up morning and afternoon. Coronavirus outbreak, Ebbsfleet, Kent, UK - 11 May 2020
A steady stream of customers turning up at the Ebbsfleet testing centre back in May (Picture: Invicta Kent Media/REX)

A coronavirus testing centre was reportedly closed to make way for a post-Brexit lorry park.

Tests at Ebbsfleet International car park began in April but staff were told ‘out of the blue’ earlier this month that the centre was closing, KentOnline reports.

A leaked letter allegedly from Kent County Council stated: ‘We have … been notified that the Ebbsfleet testing centre has closed, as the site is required by HMRC for EU Exit.’

It is understood the station car park will be used for customs checks of cross-Channel lorries after the Brexit transition period ends on December 31.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Invicta Kent Media/REX (10643863e) Ebbsfeet Testing Centre.A steady stream of customers were turning up morning and afternoon. Coronavirus outbreak, Ebbsfleet, Kent, UK - 11 May 2020
The car park will reportedly be used for Brexit customs checks (Picture: Invicta Kent Media/REX)

A Government spokesman said: ‘Regional testing sites were set up at great speed and selected for their immediate availability, security and access.

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‘The regional testing site at Ebbsfleet has ceased operations and a new regional testing site is operating at Curtis Way, Rochester. The relocation will allow the network to continue operating as long as needed.

‘In July 2020, the Government committed to spending £470 million on new border infrastructure to support ports in building extra capacity to meet the new control requirements where there is space to do so, and, if necessary, to build additional inland sites across the country where checks can take place.

‘Final decisions on inland sites will not be made until we have established the extent of new infrastructure that will be delivered at ports.’

Eurostar announced earlier this month that its trains will not resume serving Ebbsfleet International until 2022 due to the collapse in demand caused by the pandemic.

Meanwhile the Government has admitted it is preparing for the ‘reasonable worst case’ scenario for next year as a leaked report warned of queues of 7,000 lorries in Kent and significant delays to cross into the EU.

A confidential document prepared by the Cabinet Office’s Border and Protocol Delivery Group, and seen by The Guardian, also predicts thousands of passengers could have to wait an additional two hours for Eurostar trains.

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said in a statement the Government was using a ‘stretching scenario’ as opposed to a prediction.

Leading union Unite warned on Monday that Britain’s ports would be plunged into ‘chaos and confusion’ in the new year unless customs systems and lorry parks are completed.

The union said lorry drivers feared the complex computer software to deal with customs would not be ready by December 31, adding most of the planned lorry parks were still to be built.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].

For more stories like this, check our news page.

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