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Dublin: 20°C Friday 24 September 2021

UK residents returning from France must now self-isolate even if they are vaccinated

France has also moved to tighten border checks after a rise in covid-19 cases there.

Image: PA Images

HOLIDAYMAKERS AND TRAVEL industry leaders hit out at the UK government today over a last-minute change to quarantine rules for residents returning to England from France.

Ministers said last night that due to the “persistent presence” of the Beta coronavirus variant in France, the 10-day quarantine requirement would stay in place for one of Britain’s favourite destinations.

From Monday, the British government plans to lift most pandemic curbs on everyday life in England.

France is also tightening border checks to control the spread of the Delta variant and protect hospitals, according to a statement from the prime minister.

French tourism minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said on Saturday morning that France was adapting its border measures to require non-vaccinated travellers arriving from the UK, Cyprus, Spain, Greece, the Netherlands and Portugal to complete an antigen or PCR test less than 24 hours before departure.

Starting on Sunday, France will also start requiring anyone who is not vaccinated arriving from Britain, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Greece or Cyprus to present a negative test less than 24 hours old to cross French borders.

Maud Lemoine, a hepatology consultant based in London who is visiting France, told AFP the UK government was sending “a very confused message” by lifting curbs while also extending the France quarantine.

“I’m a doctor so I understand the health issues very well, but this doesn’t make any sense”, she said.

Scientists are concerned that the Beta variant, first identified in South Africa, may be more resistant to COVID vaccines, especially the UK-developed AstraZeneca jab.

Beta has a negligible presence in Britain but accounts for around 11 percent of positive test samples in France, according to the latest data. In both countries, the Delta variant is far more prevalent.

Easyjet chief Johan Lundgren said the decision to require vaccinated travellers returning from France to quarantine “pulls the rug” from under people who were already in France or had booked summer holidays there.

“The traffic light system is falling apart with the government making it up as they go along and causing confusion and uncertainty,” he said.

UK travel industry association ABTA said the exclusion of France was another setback for hopes of a “meaningful recovery” for the sector.

“This announcement will undoubtedly dent consumer confidence in overseas travel just as we are about to see many amber-listed countries opening up for UK visitors in time for the summer holidays,” it said.

Many scientists are concerned that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is putting politics first in his drive to reopen the economy from Monday, despite a surge in infections driven by the Delta variant.

“This is a threat not just to England but to the whole world – particularly low- and middle-income countries who have very limited access to vaccines,” a group of international scientists said in a joint statement Friday.

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For the first time since January, Britain’s daily COVID caseload exceeded 50,000 on Friday, and the government warns it could double from that in the coming weeks.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid – who tested positive for COVID-19 today – defended the decision.

“We will not hesitate to take rapid action at our borders to stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect the gains made by our successful vaccination programme,” he said.

In France, as infections climb again, President Emmanuel Macron this week ordered all health workers to get vaccinated by 15 September and announced that special COVID-19 passes will be required in all restaurants, bars, hospitals, shopping centres, trains and planes.

To get a pass, people must be fully vaccinated, have recently recovered from the virus, or have a fresh negative test.

The measures have prompted record numbers of people to sign up for vaccinations, but have also prompted anger among some groups, and protests are planned in various French cities.

– Additional reporting from PA

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