Poland Sent Medics to Britain to Help Drivers Stranded by Macron Blockade at Christmas

NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP via Getty Images

The Polish government sent medics to Britain to administer coronavirus tests to lorry drivers of all nationalities stranded by French president Emmanuel Macron’s blockade over Christmas.

Personnel from the Slavic country’s Territorial Defence Force trudged through the night-time darkness to give out over a thousand COVID-19 tests after the French leader said marooned drivers could cross the border if they could prove they were negative for the Chinese virus.

The operation was given the codename ‘Zumbach’ after Second World War flying ace Jan Zumbach, who defended Britain’s skies against Germany’s Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain with other Free Polish servicemen who headed west to continue fighting after their homeland war carved up by the Nazis and Soviet communists.

The Polish government thanked the medics, flown out within just six hours of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s decision to render aid to drivers, for giving up their Christmas Eve — the most important day in the holiday season for Polish families, marked by a traditional 12-dish feast in honour of the 12 apostles — to help others.

President Macron received heavy criticism from some commentators, including many Brexiteers, for his decision to shut the French border not just to travellers but to accompanied freight as well after the British government announced a new coronavirus strain was spreading in and around London.

The strain had already been confirmed as present in Continental Europe in multiple countries and the move was not replicated by other European countries with roll-on, roll-off freight links with Britain, with some seeing it as a more or less overt attempt to showcase the potential impact of a shut-down of the Anglo-British border and strong-arm Prime Minister Boris Johnson into agreeing a poor Brexit deal with the European Union.

The French government did little to disabuse people of such notions, with one minister sharing images of the long lines of lorries on social media with the comment “For all the pseudo-patriots who praise the permanent closure of borders every day” in what appeared to be thinly-veiled references to Brexit.

The jibe prompted Nigel Farage to remark that “No Deal is better than an agreement with people that hate us,” but in the end a deal was done — although whether it is a good deal remains to be seen, as Boris Johnson and the EU dragged their heels on releasing it for public scrutiny.

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