France has banned British people from visiting the country from Saturday in a hardline effort to try and slow the relentless spread of the Covid Omicron strain.
The French government said no non-essential travellers from the UK will be allowed in from the weekend.
A spokesman confirmed there will be a ‘requirement to have an essential reason to travel to, or come from, the UK, both for the unvaccinated and vaccinated.
He added: ‘People cannot travel for touristic or professional reasons.’
They insisted French citizens and EU nationals could still return to France from the UK.
Delta remains the dominant variant in France, but Omicron is spreading so fast in Britain that it’s raising concerns across the Channel.
French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on BFM television that tourism or business trips from Britain to France ‘will be limited,’ though French citizens will still be able to make the journey.
All those arriving from Britain will need to have a negative virus test less than 24 hours old, and to test again upon arrival and isolate ‘in a place they choose’ for at least 48 hours pending the result, Attal said.
The UK recorded the highest number of confirmed new COVID-19 infections Wednesday since the pandemic began, and England’s chief medical officer warned the situation is likely to get worse as the omicron variant drives a new wave of illness during the Christmas holidays.
It is a rapid turnaround from yesterday when the government said returning travellers would need a negative test less than 24 hours old, a blanket quarantine would be enforced on return to France, and trips for tourism limited.
“We will reduce the validity of the test to come to France from 48 hours to 24 hours,” they said.
“We will limit the reasons for coming to France from the UK, it will be limited to French nationals and residents and their families. Tourism or business trips for people who do not have French or European nationality or are residents will be limited.’
‘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,’ he said.
Attal said this 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.
Britain on Wednesday recorded a record 78,610 laboratory-confirmed Covid cases, with scientists predicting even higher rates as Omicron is believed to spread much faster than the currently dominant Delta variant.
The tight travel restrictions are also being imposed during what analysts see as a breakdown of trust between the British and French governments in the wake of Brexit over a host 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
On Wednesday over-65s in France without Covid-19 booster jabs lost their ‘health pass’ under new rules.
The pass was introduced in the summer and makes full vaccination against Covid-19, a recent recovery or negative test obligatory for visiting any restaurant or cafe, inter-city train travel and going to cultural venues like cinemas or museums.
The government says some 400,000 people aged 65 and over who are eligible for the booster shot have yet to take it, which is 12 per cent of those aged 80 and above and 10 per cent of those aged 65 to 79.
People in the 65 plus age group who have failed to take up the booster shot will see the QR code in their health pass generated by a mobile phone app automatically dis-activated
Source: Daily Mail