British, Spanish and Portuguese media outlets noticed the efforts of Polish doctors and soldiers who were busy testing truck drivers stuck in Dover, United Kingdom, after France closed the border due to the Covid-19 mutation spreading in Britain. “A day after the UK decided that it did not need Europe, we are accepting help from French firefighters and Polish territorial defense,” a British papers wrote. British media outlets paid the most attention to the Polish operation.
In the UK, the blockage caused by border restrictions due to the new coronavirus mutation created chaos and hours-long traffic jams. British information agency PA Media was the first to report the assistance of Polish soldiers in solving the crisis. The agency’s article was later reprinted in several papers and websites, such as the Evening Standard, Metro and The Daily Mirror. PA Media explained that traffic started moving smoothly on Friday due to the assistance of the French firefighters and Polish Territorial Defense Force. “Poland has code named its operation Zumbach after the Polish Second World War pilot Jan Zumbach, who fought for the allies in the Battle of Britain,” PA Media added. Polish soldiers, volunteers and consulate support also helped drivers by distributing food and supplies while they were forced to wait in the traffic jams. “Consuls from the Polish UK embassy along with territorial defense and volunteers from London and Manchester are distributing food to the drivers on M20,” the Polish embassy in the UK shared on Twitter. Spanish commentators also appreciated the assistance of Polish soldiers and doctors, especially in context of the lack of help from their government. “Poland sends soldiers to the UK to help drivers who are stuck there – both their own citizens and the citizens of countries whose governments abandoned them,” leader of Spanish right-wing party Vox Santiago Abascal wrote on social media.
Influential Spanish blogger Elentir criticized the actions of his country’s government compared to that of the Polish one. He emphasized that “while the Spanish government limited itself to stating that it would not punish drivers for resting too long in truck cubicles, the Polish government sent dozens of doctors, diagnostics, nurses and paramedics who were replaced by 60 military doctors on Friday.” Portuguese commentators also criticized their government while praising the actions of not only Polish authorities, but also those of other Central European states. “They helped not only their own drivers, but also ours. The diplomats of other Central-Eastern European countries, such as Romania and Czechia, did the same. The Czechs even offered us the help of psychologists,” Rogerio Nunes, a Portuguese driver who was stuck in the UK, said. Andre Almeida, the representative of the Portuguese road transport workers association Antram, criticized the weakness of European diplomacy in solving the issue of the UK blockage as 100 Portuguese drivers were still stranded on the British Isles on Saturday.
Title image: Polish services are distributing food to the drivers on M20 highway near Dover, source: Polish Embassy UK, TT.