France has banned non-essential travel to and from the UK from Saturday 18 December to slow the spread of the Omicron Covid-19 variant that is causing record numbers of cases on the other side of the Channel, the French government said on Thursday.
From midnight (Friday night to Saturday morning) there will be a ‘requirement to have an essential reason to travel to, or come from, the UK, both for the unvaccinated and vaccinated … People cannot travel for touristic or professional reasons,’ the government said in a statement.
‘Faced with the extremely rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the UK, the government has chosen to reinstate the need for an essential reason for travel from and to the UK,’ the statement said.
It added that French citizens and EU nationals could still return to France from the UK.
‘We will put in place a system of controls drastically tighter than the one we have already,’ French government spokesman Gabriel Attal told BFMTV channel.
Attal said the policy was aimed at ‘tightening the net’ to slow down the arrival of Omicron cases in France and give time for the French vaccination booster campaign to make more ground.
‘Our strategy is to delay as much as we can the development of Omicron in our country and take advantage to push ahead with the booster drive,’ he said.
People coming from the UK will be required to have a negative Covid test of less than 24 hours before travelling.
‘People (coming back) will have to register on an app and will have to self-isolate in a place of their choosing 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,’ Attal said.
Compelling reasons will be needed for entry, which includes visiting family – but not for tourism or non-urgent work reasons.
The new measures apply to everyone regardless of whether they have been vaccinated.
The tight travel restrictions are being imposed during what some analysts see as a breakdown of trust between the British and French governments in the wake of Brexit over a number of issues from migrants to fishing.
French President Emmanuel Macron last week accused UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government of failing to keep its word on Brexit, saying ‘the problem with the British government is that it does not do what it says’.
UK Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has confirmed that hauliers will remain exempt from the new measures.
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