Tuesday , March 21 2023

France to lift ban on UK tourists from Friday, says tourism minister

France will lift its ban on UK holidaymakers from Friday morning, the tourism minister has announced, dropping a requirement for all travellers from the UK to show evidence of a “compelling reason” for their journey.

Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said on Thursday people arriving from Britain would also no longer need to self-isolate on arrival in France, but proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken no more than 24 hours before departure would still be demanded.

“People will once again be able to travel for leisure between France and the UK, and to go skiing,” he said.

The decision to allow non-essential travel again will be welcomed by travel operators including ferry companies and the Eurostar train service, and in particular by British skiers, thousands of whom have booked holidays in Alpine ski resorts.

France tightened restrictions on travel from and to Britain on 18 December in an effort to curb the rapid spread of the Omicron Covid variant, requiring vaccinated and unvaccinated people to show a “compelling reason” for travel such as a family or health emergency.

The rule, which in effect limited entry from the UK to French 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 required all arrivals from the UK to present a negative PCR or antigen test taken within the previous 24 hours and to quarantine in France for seven days, reduced to 48 hours if they can produce a new negative test.

Thursday’s decision should also mean an end to a controversial rule barring British nationals resident in other EU countries travelling through France to reach their homes. The transit ban was temporarily suspended on 30 December after UK citizens living in Belgium and Germany were refused entry to France.

The French government spokesperson, Gabriel Attal, said on Wednesday the ban on non-essential travel should be lifted within days because the highly transmissible Omicron variant was now dominant in France.

New daily coronavirus infections in France have set successive records in recent weeks, 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 strict travel measures were also imposed during what analysts see as a post-Brexit breakdown of trust between the British and French governments over a host of issues from migrants to fishing.

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