<p>Beta variant cases are high on Reunion Island</p>

Beta variant cases are high on Reunion Island

France travel rules dependent on island 6,000 miles away from mainland

’It’s not the distance that matters, it’s the ease of travel between different component parts of a country,’ says foreign secretary

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Thursday 29 July 2021 12:42

Summer holiday trips to and from France will depend on infection rates and the presence of Covid variants on an island 6,000 miles away, the foreign secretary has warned.

On 16 July, ministers moved France from “amber list” status to a new “amber plus” category. The effect is to oblige all arriving travellers from France, including those who have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus, to self-isolate in the UK. The reason stated: the prevalence of the Beta variant, which is much more significant on the island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean than it is in mainland France.

Speaking to BBC Today, Dominic Raab made clear this was the government’s policy. He said: “France is on the amber plus list.

“The announcement in relation to double vaccinations from Europe will not apply to them. There’s an exemption for them specifically.

“Obviously the evidence presented on which the original decision was taken was based on the prevalence of the so-called Beta variant, in particular in the Réunion bit of France which of course is away from the mainland.”

The island is 5,800 miles from Paris. But Mr Raab said that was irrelevant.

“It’s not the distance that matters, it’s the ease of travel between different component parts of any individual country.”

The revelation will dismay holiday companies, train operators and airlines, because it means that infection developments in tropical locations such as the French Caribbean islands and Guyane in South America will directly affect rules for summer travel between the UK and France.

A spokesperson for Brittany Ferries said : “This is madness. It would be like France hammering British holidaymakers due to a Covid outbreak on the Falkland Islands.”

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy, The PC Agency, said: “I’ve never heard such utter rubbish. France should never have gone on the amber plus list anyway.

“If government policy is going to be based on islands 5,000 miles away, then the policy needs to be changed urgently.”

In 2018, while Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab said: ““I hadn’t quite understood the full extent of this, but if you look at the UK and look at how we trade in goods, we are particularly reliant on the Dover-Calais crossing,”

Earlier France’s Europe minister, Clément Beaune, said: “The UK’s quarantine measures for France are excessive and incomprehensible in health terms.”

The foreign secretary said: “We want to get France up the traffic light system as soon as possible.

“We will take the scientific evidence every step along the way, and we’ll be very careful to make sure that we’re proceeding in accordance with that advice.”

The next traffic light review is expected on Wednesday or Thursday, 4 or 5 August, with changes taking effect from 4am on Monday 9 August.

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