British skiers could soon be able to return to French slopes after an announcement that France is due to lift its blanket ban on non-essential travel from the UK.
The French government’s official spokesman, Gabriel Attal, said after a weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday that Paris would ease travel restrictions from the UK to France in the next few days.
“I confirm that a further easing of the restrictions with the UK will be announced in the coming days,” Gabriel Attal told reporters. “Work is continuing. I hope that the announcement can be made by the end of the week.”
France dramatically tightened restrictions on travel from and to Britain on 18 December in an attempt to curb the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, effectively banning all non-essential journeys by requiring vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers to show a “compelling reason” for travel.
The rule, which effectively limited entry from the UK to France and EU nationals and British citizens resident in France, was later eased to allow people in “for the pursuit of an economic activity requiring an on-site presence that cannot be postponed.”
The rules also require all arrivals from the UK to present a negative PCR or antigen test taken within the previous 24 hours, rather than 48 hours, and to quarantine in France for seven days – reduced to 48 hours if they can produce a new negative test.
On December 30, the French government suspended one of the new rules to allow British nationals who were legally resident in other EU countries to transit through France to reach their homes by road and rail. Border officials would “show tolerance” in order to allow people to return home after the Christmas and New Year period, the interior ministry said, without specifying when the rule would be reimposed.
On Wednesday, Attal said he had said at the time that the new rules were introduced that “if we continued to see the same situation, that is the Omicron variant becoming dominant in France, of course we would continue to ease the restrictions.”
New daily coronavirus infections in France have since set successive records, with the country on Tuesday reporting a new high of nearly 370,000 infections and a seven-day average high of more than 283,000, with Omicron accounting for 87% of all cases nationwide.
The tight travel restrictions were also 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.
They were a blow to the French tourism industry over the Christmas period, in particular to Alpine ski resorts, which are very popular with UK tourists.
Charles Owen, managing director of Seasonal Businesses in Travel, an industry organisation representing UK travel businesses that mainly operate ski holidays, said the news could lead to a surge in bookings.
“This is very welcome news, not only for the thousands of UK holidaymakers and people visiting friends and family in France, but also for the thousands of UK ski-tour operators that have been in an effective shutdown for 22 months,” he said.
“Snow conditions in the Alps are near perfect and we expect demand for holidays to be very high over the next few weeks,” he added.