New Covid testing for French-bound hauliers catches a positive case

Almost 200 drivers tested on first day of new detection system to meet new French rules

One lorry driver tested positive for Covid-19 under the new testing system required for France-bound hauliers on ferries from Ireland to prevent the spread of the more infectious UK strain.

Commercial drivers heading to France on direct ferries from Dublin and Rosslare must have evidence of a negative test taken within the previous 72 hours on arrival at French ports.

On Thursday, the first day of rapid antigen testing at privately run but State-funded centres at Dublin Airport and off the M11 motorway near Gorey, Co Wexford, almost 200 lorry drivers were tested to meet the new mandatory requirement set by the French government for Irish hauliers.

The first two ferries left for France, one from Dublin and another from Rosslare, on Thursday in the first direct sailings since the new rules came into effect.


A number of van drivers and foreign nationals driving lorries were turned away from the Stena Horizon ferry due to leave Rosslare Europort for Cherbourg on Thursday night and sent back the Gorey test centre because they did not have negative tests.

Some van drivers did not make it back in time to catch the 8.25pm ferry.

David Rock, chief executive of RocDoc, the company running the testing centres, said that one driver at the Dublin centre tested positive and was referred for a PCR test to confirm the virus.

“It is an early detection system. We use it as a triage tool rather than the definitive tool. It takes up to an hour for the test and most of them are done in half an hour,” he said.


He urged lorry drivers to pre-book testing slots at the company's website,, to avoid delays if hauliers are heading to Dublin Port or Rosslare Europort to catch ferries.

He expressed concern at the capacity of testing if 200 lorry drivers turned up at the one time.

“We don’t want to keep anyone waiting and the only way we can do that is with pre-booking,” he said.

Haulage industry representatives expect the system to be really tested for the first time this weekend as larger numbers of lorry drivers head to France on the busier weekend ferries.

"There are maybe 300 lorries going out of Dublin on Saturday so it will be a real test of the system," said Aidan Flynn, general manager of Freight Transport Association of Ireland.

Eugene Drennan, president of the Irish Road Haulage Association, expressed concern about delays and disruption to trade with the testing centre located at Dublin Airport's Blue Long Stay Car Park and not closer to the port.

“It has to be fast-flowing and streamlined. That is not a streamlined way to get to the port,” he said.

Return trip

Hauliers based in the southeast expressed concern at having to undertake a 40-minute return trip near Gorey to get tested before leaving on a ferry from Rosslare.

A third testing site will open on Friday on a site at Holmestown on the N25 road between New Ross and Rosslare to facilitate local drivers to be tested closer to the southeastern port.

RocDoc will be providing drive-through testing for hauliers arriving in cars in advance of their lorry journeys at the company’s existing testing sites at Cork and Shannon Airports.

Between 1,500 and 2,000 tests are expected to be carried out every week on lorry drivers heading to France on direct routes that have become critical for supply lines since Brexit border controls have delayed traffic to and from mainland Europe across the UK "landbridge".

"It's going to give the customers confidence that the drivers will be tested. It is going to make traffic and the flow very, very easy, all going well," lorry driver David McCormack told The Irish Times at the RocDoc testing site at the Circle K truckstop near Gorey.

Ferry companies can be fined if they permit lorry drivers to board in Ireland without evidence of a negative test and must return any lorry drivers and trucks turned away at French ports back to Ireland.

Irish Ferries declined to comment on whether any issues arose on their WB Yeats service that left Dublin for Cherbourg on Thursday.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times