France to restrict travel from UK due to Omicron Covid wave

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France will impose “considerably stricter” travel restrictions on passengers arriving from the UK amid fears of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant.

The government said British travelers must have a compelling reason for their trip which could not be tourism or business. French nationals and their families are exempt.

Travelers permitted to enter will be required to show proof of a negative Covid test and people returning from the UK to France will be required to self-isolate for a week.

“We are going to put in place a system of controls that is drastically stricter than the one we already have,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal told BFM television. He said a statement by Prime Minister Jean Castex would be released later Thursday.

“We will reduce the validity of the test to come to France from 48 hours to 24 hours,” he said.

“We will limit the reasons for coming to France from the United Kingdom, it will be limited to French nationals and residents and their families. Tourist or professional travel by people who do not have French or European nationality or who reside in France will be limited.

“People [coming back] will have to register on an application and will have to self-isolate in a place of their choice for seven days – controlled by the security forces – but this can be shortened to 48 hours if a negative test is carried out in France.

Mr Attal said the policy was aimed at “tightening the net” to slow the arrival of Omicron cases in France and give the French vaccination booster campaign time to gain traction.

It came as EU leaders stressed the importance that the restrictions “be based on objective criteria and do not disproportionately hamper free movement” between member states or within the bloc.

In the conclusions subsequent to the European Council, the leaders also reaffirmed the urgency of deploying recall campaigns and the need to fight against reluctance to vaccinate, in particular by combating disinformation.

Italy, Greece and Portugal recently announced that newcomers – regardless of their vaccination status – must provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said every adult in England will be offered a booster vaccine by the end of the year.

“Our strategy is to delay the development of Omicron in our country as much as possible and to take the opportunity to take the booster forward,” Mr. Attal said.

The Omicron is believed to spread much faster than the Delta variant.

The new rules are expected to take effect this weekend.

UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he had secured an exemption for carriers in talks with his French counterpart Jean-Baptiste Djebbari.

Health Minister Gillian Keegan said it was “unfortunate” that people had to cancel Christmas plans due to the spread of Omicron, but did not criticize the French government’s decision.

“Well actually my first thought is ‘I’m glad I canceled my trip to France’ because that’s where I was supposed to go for Christmas,” she said. BBC Radio 4 today program.

“But of course every government deals with Omicron, every government has to make its decisions and respond to them, you know. This is obviously going to change people’s plans, which is very unfortunate. “

Brittany Ferries, a company that sails to the north of France from the southern English ports of Plymouth, Poole and Portsmouth, denounced the restrictions.

“These new measures are a hammer blow to our Christmas season,” said a spokesperson for the company.

“In the context of a variant of Omicron that crosses the French population as in the UK, further border controls seem as unnecessary as they are undesirable.”

Paul Charles, managing director of PC Agency, a public relations and travel brands consultancy, criticized the French government’s decision to restrict travel between the two countries.

“General country measures are a damaging step backwards and never work,” he said.

“Omicron is already present in France and in other EU countries. Why should the millions of boosted people be treated the same as those who were not vaccinated and barred from entering? “

The measures were announced after the UK declared a record number of daily infections on Wednesday, when 78,610 cases were detected.

The restrictions come at a sensitive time in UK-France relations and amid an ongoing feud between the two governments over how to resolve the Channel’s migrant crisis.

Confidence between London and Paris has also been low since the UK left the EU. Brexit has led to problems, including disputes over mutual fishing rights.

French President Emmanuel Macron last week accused British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government of breaking their word on Brexit, saying “the problem with the British government is that it doesn’t do what it says” .

Update: December 16, 2021, 3:40 p.m.

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