The UK Government has agreed a mass testing programme for HGV drivers in an effort to ease congestion in Kent.
An agreement between the French and British governments was made on Tuesday (December 22), and is set to be in place until review on December 31.
The Department for Transport said the protocol agreed with the French government could run until January 6.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “I am pleased that we have made this important progress with our French counterparts this evening.
“This protocol will see the French border reopen to those travelling for urgent reasons, provided they have a certified negative Covid test.
“We continue to urge hauliers not to travel to Kent until further notice as we work to alleviate congestion at ports.”
All lorry drivers, irrespective of nationality, will require a lateral flow test, which can provide results in about 30 minutes, reports PA.
The French government will also carry out sample testing on incoming freight to the UK, the DfT said.
More than 4,000 food and drink lorries are being held up by the French travel ban which has caused gridlock around Dover, industry experts have told MPs.
The Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy Select Committee (BEIS) was also warned that halted trucks “need to move in the next 24 hours” if supermarkets are to avoid empty shelves.
Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), told MPs that the number of food and drink lorries affected by travel restrictions was far higher: ““I don’t think the number of trucks in the queue is the relevant number.
“We reckon about 4,000 are on their way to Dover at various points.
“Anyone seeing this all happening in the run-up would have parked somewhere else, somewhere more congenial and in a better state.”
Mr Shapps told BBC News: “Any passengers going to France – and at the moment I’m afraid that’s mostly French citizens returning and one or two other exceptions – will need a lateral flow, or a PCR test, but a test within the 72-hour period before they go to France.
“Of course, anyone coming this way – and again we’re not encouraging anybody to travel right now – will need to follow our rules which are self-isolation for 10 days or a test to release after five days.”
In a press release, the French foreign affairs ministry said that from 11pm UK time (midnight in France) there would be a “limited resumption of the movement of people from the United Kingdom to France subject to negative health tests sensitive to the variant”.
The statement said that a negative test result, taken less than 72 hours before the journey, is required and this can be either a “PCR or antigen test” sensitive to the new variant.
Those who can make journeys include French and EU residents, British or third-party nationals who normally live in France or the EU, as well as some other groups.
French transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebarri said: “Planes, boats and Eurostar trains will resume service as of tomorrow morning.
“French nationals, people living in France and those with a legitimate reason will have to be carrying a negative test.”
More than 2,800 HGVs were stuck in Kent on Tuesday afternoon as a result of the disruption.
The French decision to ease its restrictions came after the European Commission recommended a joint approach from EU members in response to the mutant VUI 202012/1 coronavirus.
The World Health Organisation’s European chief Hans Kluge said limiting travel to contain the spread of the new variant was “prudent” until there was more information, but supply chains for “essential goods” and essential travel “should remain possible”.
Meanwhile, scientific advisers continued to press the case for tougher restrictions in response to the VUI 202012/1 variant, which is 70% more infectious than previous strains.