France's status under UK’s traffic light travel scheme given tonight
Whether or not France is deemed amber or green will affect the costs and inconvenience associated with travel to the country
Details of the UK’s new ‘traffic light’ travel scheme will be announced at 17:00 UK time (18:00 in France) today.
The Department for Transport has confirmed that the transport minister, Grant Shapps, will lead a briefing in Downing Street at that time.
It will include information such as which countries are being placed on the ‘green’ list of those deemed safest and with the fewest complications in terms of testing and quarantine for travellers on return to the UK.
It is expected that ministers will also confirm how often official reviews of countries’ colour-coding will be done. UK media have quoted inside sources as stating that colours could change every three weeks.
It is also likely that today there will be confirmation that the UK’s blanket ban on leisure travel will be lifted from May 17. So far this has officially only been given as the ‘earliest possible’ date.
At present UK residents may only travel abroad for one of a few approved urgent or essential reasons, not including holidays.
If France is, as expected, placed on the amber list, this will mean that British residents may return to France again for holidays or to visit second homes, but with the same restrictions on return as they previously faced – ie. they must self-isolate at home for 10 days and take pre-ordered Covid tests (to be sent off to labs) on day two and eight.
An optional, additional, ‘test-to-release’ test may also be taken on day five for earlier release from self-isolation if it comes back negative.
A package of the two essential tests costs £160-350, although the UK government has said it will work with providers to reduce the costs.
This is in addition to a test in France before returning to the UK, which is part of the UK’s intended requirements regardless of colour code, and any French requirements on arrival in France.
‘Green’ colour-coding, which may come for France in a later review if it is not allocated immediately, would reduce costs as only one test after return would be needed, and it would remove the need to self-isolate.
At present, a negative Covid PCR test from the last 72 hours is also required by France for arrivals from the UK – meaning another cost of around £120 – however in June this may change for those who can show they are fully vaccinated.
France does not have a travel ban on people visiting the country from the UK.
The UK is developing an app that people could use to present their vaccination status, though it is not yet confirmed if it will be accepted by the EU, or when it will be ready. It is expected that a paper certificate of vaccination with an EU-approved vaccine will also be acceptable.
The ending of the UK’s blanket ban on leisure travel is also expected to mean a change to the current FCDO (Foreign, Commonwealth. & Development Office) France travel advice which states ‘it is illegal to travel abroad for holidays’.
However it is not yet clear if additional advice against all but essential travel based on the UK’s assessment of France’s Covid risks will also be removed. This may depend on the country’s colour code, meaning it might only change if and when France is deemed ‘green’.
The latter point is significant as many UK travel insurance policies are invalidated if people travel against FCDO advice, for example for a holiday when only ‘essential’ travel is advised.
However there is no reason for UK residents’ health cover under the Ghic/Ehic scheme to be invalidated. Furthermore there are other legal guarantees under EU and UK rules related to refund and compensation rights if travel firms cancel trips.