France travel restrictions: British tourists to be banned as Omicron cases surge

New rules will apply to vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers

Helen Coffey
Thursday 16 December 2021 18:55 GMT
Omicron Is Spreading Faster Than Any Other Variant, WHO Director Warns

France is to ban UK tourists from Saturday 18 December, according to the government.

Only those with a “compelling reason” will be allowed to travel between the two countries under new measures, even if they are fully vaccinated.

From midnight on Saturday, leisure travel will be off the table – at present, double-jabbed British arrivals are allowed in for any purpose.

The list of “compelling reasons” does not include “travel for tourist or professional reasons”, according to a statement issued by the French government.

However, French citizens and their spouses, partners and children will still be able to return to France from the UK.

Other exemptions include students enrolled in France; being in transit for less than 24 hours; and those travelling due to the death or terminal prognosis of a close family member (grandparent, parent, child or sibling).

For those who are travelling for “essential” reasons, testing requirements are also tightening up, with UK arrivals required to take a Covid test 24 hours before departure instead of the current 48.

Those from the UK who are permitted entry must register on a digital platform prior to their trip, where they will have to record the address of the place they are staying.

All UK arrivals must quarantine, although they may leave isolation after 48 hours subject to taking a second Covid test and receiving a negative result.

The French government is also calling on travellers who had planned to visit the UK from France to postpone their trip.

“Tourism or business travel for people who are not resident in France will be restricted from Saturday,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal told French media earlier today, adding that “essential reasons” for travelling to France would include residency.

The UK’s transport secretary, Grant Shapps, tweeted that he has “liaised with my French counterpart @Djebbari_JB and hauliers will remain exempt” from the new restrictions.

Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson said that the UK had been informed in advance of the French decision to ban British leisure travellers but said that the prime minister had not spoken with President Emmanuel Macron about it.

“It is up to individual countries to decide their approach,” said the spokesperson.

“We’ve maintained that travel abroad will be different this year and that countries may impose border measures at short notice in line with their own policies in line with rising Omicron cases around the world.

“We have removed countries from the red list, as this was no longer an effective or proportionate way to slow the import of Omicron from abroad, given it is now seeded throughout the world.”

Travel industry insiders in the UK were dismayed at the announcement.

ABTA’s chief executive, Mark Tanzer, said: “Reports that France is to introduce a temporary ban on most travel from the UK will come as a hammer blow to the winter travel industry, which is already under extreme pressure following the new Omicron restrictions.

“The winter sports and school travel markets are particularly exposed, and the government must now bring forward a support package if we are not to see company failures and job losses. 

“The travel and tourism sector has had little chance to generate income since early 2020 and is now faced with another wave of cancellations. Travel businesses have reported turnover at just 22 per cent of pre-pandemic levels following two years of government-imposed restrictions, and consumer confidence in overseas travel has been hit hard.”

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