Representatives of associations of doctors, teachers and other essential workers on Tuesday called on the British government to act to allow them to refuel after several days of fuel shortages caused by massive purchases by motorists worried about the shortage.
Many drivers have been causing huge traffic jams at gas stations for days, in what the government has denounced as a panic movement, after some distributors announced pump closures due to lack of truckers to carry fuel from storage terminals.
The truck driver shortage started months ago, fueled by the pandemic and Brexit. The problem also affects the supply of supermarkets, fast food establishments and bars, among others, which report delays in deliveries and lack of some products.
Organizations of doctors, nurses and prison staff demand that essential workers have priority access to gas stations.
“We cannot spend two or three hours queuing when we have patients to attend to,” the vice president of the British Medical Association, David Wrigley, told the SkyNews channel, asking the authorities to take action this Tuesday.
“If we don’t have fuel, this will affect our patients,” he stressed.
For their part, if the problem persists, some schools are considering returning to distance learning, abandoned since the lifting of restrictions against covid-19.
“For many teachers, using public transportation is simply not an option,” said Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teachers union, also advocating for teachers to have priority access to fuel supplies.
If due to the closure of schools or the return of online classes, students have to stay home again, parents should also do so and a good part of the economy, recently reactivated after the pandemic, would once again be paralyzed.
“Let essential workers refuel first,” The Mirror headlined Tuesday, while The Sun criticized the Boris Johnson executive for “chaos” and “confusion.”
– “Brexit management” –
The government must “get down to business” in the face of the fuel crisis and use emergency powers to designate certain service stations to be used by workers in key sectors, demanded Unison, a large organization representing the public sector.
In response to the crisis, the government asked the army on Monday night to remain prepared to intervene “if necessary to stabilize the fuel supply.”
Previously, it had already announced a temporary relaxation of post-Brexit immigration rules to attract more foreign truckers.
But David Brown, president of the National Courier and Despatch Association, which represents independent delivery companies, assured AFP that he did not see the relief he expected after several days of tension.
“My drivers are having trouble finding fuel,” he said of his own delivery company, which has had to turn down some orders. “My fleet is small, it is very difficult to predict if we can do the trips,” he added.
However, Transport Minister Grant Shapps was reassuring and assured that “panic buying” was “moderating.”
“People have responded to the call to refuel only when they really need fuel and, in any case, their tanks are now more full,” he said in a statement Monday night.
But for Labor opposition MP Nick Thomas-Symonds, the fuel crisis is due to the “total incompetence” of the government and its “Brexit management.”
Opinion shared by Olaf Scholz, Germany’s finance minister and possible next chancellor: “We worked hard to convince the British not to leave the European Union” but “now that they have decided to do so, I hope they can manage the problems that arise”, stated to a British journalist.
pau-acc / me