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Travellers Express Anger Over France Quarantine Rules Change

July 19, 2021 | 19:57

Angers have been stirred among travellers and tourism groups, and critised the ongoing need for people coming to England, Scotland and Wales from France to quarantine for 10 days.

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Quarantine rules are due to end for fully vaccinated people arriving from other amber list countries on Monday.

France remains on the amber list, but there is concern over the level of Beta variant in the country as it may evade vaccine protection.

An industry group said the decision "squashed" consumer confidence.

Gemma Antrobus, from the Association of Independent Tour Operators, estimated that hundreds of thousands of travellers would be affected by the change.

Photo: Sky News
Photo: Sky News

She told the BBC the industry was in shock and the decision "proves that something can come out of nowhere at the very last minute".

TheUK government announced the change of policy on Friday evening.

Each UK nation sets its own travel rules. Wales said it would be following the change set by England, and on Saturday evening Scotland announced it was doing the same. Northern Ireland is yet to announce its intention.

The Beta variant - first identified in South Africa - accounts for about 10% of new infections in France. But that includes the Indian Ocean territories of Reunion and Mayotte, where the variant is near-universal.

The more infectious Delta variant - first identified in India - accounts for almost all new cases in the UK.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the government had always been clear that it would take "rapid action" to stop the spread of Covid, according to BBC.

But Willie Walsh, the director-general of the International Air Transport Association, said the UK is "destroying its own travel sector and the thousands of jobs that rely on it" through constantly changing its travel rules.

And Easyjet chief Johan Lundgren said the decision "pulls the rug" from travellers already in France and shows the traffic light system for pandemic travel is "falling apart".

Travellers told the BBC they were frustrated by the inconsistent rules, while some said it was making it hard to visit family members abroad.

Photo: Sky News
Photo: Sky News

The government announcement means that anyone who has been in France in the previous 10 days will need to quarantine on arrival to England in their own accommodation and will need a day two and day eight test, regardless of their vaccination status.

This includes any fully vaccinated individual who transits through France from either a green or another amber country.

But ministers indicated that Eurostar passengers on services travelling through France would not need to quarantine if their train did not stop in the country.

Existing amber list exemptions for key workers such as hauliers will remain in place.

French MEP Veronique Trillet-Lenoir told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that it was "difficult to understand" the UK rules, as the Beta variant is "not present at all" in mainland France, with France's cases mainly being found in its overseas territories.

There has been no official response from the French government yet, but BBC Paris correspondent Hugh Schofield said it would be pushing for an explanation from its London counterpart for the toughened policy.

France has announced it will tighten its rules for UK travellers who are not fully vaccinated, requiring a negative test in the 24 hours before arrival from Sunday, rather than the 48 hours allowed previously.

Anyone fully vaccinated with a jab from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson from any country will be exempt from providing a negative test, however.

British travellers rage at UK's 'chaotic' quarantine U-turn

The news will come as a blow to many who were planning a getaway in France. Photo: Sky News
The news will come as a blow to many who were planning a getaway in France. Photo: Sky News

Previously, people only had to test negative 72 hours - or in the UK's case, 48 hours - beforehand.

But in another change, fully jabbed people are now completely exempt from any constraints when entering France, so long as the vaccine they received is in use in the EU.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps defended the UK government's approach and said it was committed to safely reopening international travel but that public health was the priority.

The quarantine requirement will also apply to Wales, but Scotland and Northern Ireland are yet to confirm what they intend to do. Each of the devolved administrations sets their own travel rules.

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "We have been informed by the UK government of this late change regarding France after changes to our regulations for 19 July have been made.

"We will of course also want to safeguard against the importation of the Beta variant from France, so would expect anyone entering Wales from France to self-isolate and we will be working to align our regulations as soon as possible."

A Scottish government spokesperson said: "We are considering the best approach for Scotland as we look to adopt a four nation approach on international travel, where possible.

"Decisions on border health measures are a devolved matter and will be taken by ministers on the basis of evidence and with the safety of our communities as our primary concern."

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "We have been informed by the UK government of this late change regarding France after changes to our regulations for 19 July have been made.

"We will of course also want to safeguard against the importation of the Beta variant from France, so would expect anyone entering Wales from France to self-isolate and we will be working to align our regulations as soon as possible."

A Scottish government spokesperson said: "We are considering the best approach for Scotland as we look to adopt a four nation approach on international travel, where possible.

"Decisions on border health measures are a devolved matter and will be taken by ministers on the basis of evidence and with the safety of our communities as our primary concern."

Georgina Thomas, a fully-vaccinated nurse who has been visiting her parents in France, said she couldn't understand the UK government's decision.

"I'm frustrated with the inconsistent approach the government are taking, it doesn't all appear logical," the 32-year-old told the PA news agency.

"If a quarantine is necessary then so be it, but I'm confident that my risk will be higher when I return to the UK."

Graham McLeod, from Bolton, who has been staying on on France's Atlantic coast, said he would also have to isolate despite being double-jabbed.

The 63-year-old called it "inconsistent, irregular, unclear and frankly unworkable".

"We struggle to understand the sudden desire to introduce quarantine for returnees from France and cannot help feel this has far more to do with politics and much less to do with science," he added.

UK Health Security Agency chief executive Dr Jenny Harries added: "As we ease restrictions and begin making our way back to a normal life, its more vital than ever that we listen to the data and act decisively when it changes.

"While vaccines are helping us turn the tables against this virus, we need to continue to proceed cautiously.

"That means maintaining our defences against new variants and protecting our hard won progress through the exceptional vaccination roll out."

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