Merkel calls for all of EU to follow Germany and quarantine Britons
France’s current policy of allowing fully-vaccinated UK travellers to visit without an essential reason is in line with EU guidelines but there are concerns over the Delta variant
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for all EU countries to impose an obligatory quarantine on visitors from the UK as Germany is doing.
Mrs Merkel is expected to raise the idea at an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels today, however there is no indication as yet that the bloc as a whole will adopt Germany’s strict approach.
She made the comment speaking before German MPs yesterday, saying: “In our country, if you come from Great Britain you have to go into quarantine – and that’s not the case in every European country, and that’s what I would like to see.”
Germany classes the UK as a ‘virus variant area of concern’ and requires a 14-day quarantine as well as limiting entry to residents, Germans and those with an 'urgent humanitarian reason'.
At present France allows double-vaccinated travellers from the UK into the country without needing to give an essential reason for travel and without quarantine.
In doing so France is following guidelines from the European Council on a coordinated EU approach towards travellers from outside the EU, so there is at present no reason to assume it will change this policy.
However, these guidelines do also advise an ‘emergency brake’ on entry from countries where the epidemic has worsened quickly, in particular linked to a ‘variant of concern’.
It comes amid increasing concerns about Covid’s Delta variant which now accounts for 90% or more of new cases in the UK and which has been linked to an overall rise in cases there in recent weeks.
Cases of the Delta variant are also rising in France, and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control stated yesterday that the Delta variant is likely to represent 90% of new cases in the EU by the end of August.
Even so, Covid cases in France remain low – 2,320 in the last 24 hours by the latest statistics – comparable to the UK’s figures before the Delta variant increased. The UK is now at 16,135.
Some French experts (such as Dr Karine Lacombe and Prof Jean-François Delfraisy) believe rising cases in the UK could be linked to the fact the UK has made widespread use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which some studies have found to be less effective against the Delta variant, as well as prioritising getting as many people as possible vaccinated with a first dose, while studies show a single dose provides poor protection against it.
It does not therefore automatically follow that overall cases will rise in France if the proportion of the Delta variant rises here and, in particular, it does not mean numbers of severe cases and hospitalisations will rise, as the vaccines are known to be effective against this.
The current European Council recommendations set a figure of 75 cases per 100,000 population in the last 14 days as the threshold under which EU countries should allow all travellers to visit from a non-EU country without an essential reason.
With the UK reporting a 97.5 rate over the last seven days, it is far from meeting this.
The Council has also recommended letting fully-vaccinated travellers enter from non-EU countries without an essential reason or quarantine – a recommendation followed by France.
It also said that the EU should look into compatibility between non-EU countries’ systems and its Digital COVID Certificate scheme, set to come in by July 1. This is intended to provide a standardised way to show full vaccination, a negative test or having recovered from Covid, for purposes of travel.
Talks are said to be “progressing well” with the UK.
The recommendations do nonetheless refer to an ‘emergency brake’, under which countries are advised to introduce “an urgent, temporary restriction” on inward travel, other than for residents, EU citizens and those with urgent reasons, who should still be subject to testing and quarantine.
Rules around the EU vary country by country despite EU calls for a standard approach.
Currently some EU countries, such as Spain and Portugal, allow UK visitors to enter without restrictions, regardless of vaccination status.
Others, such as Belgium, require a quarantine as Germany does (in Belgium's case 10 days). Italy formerly only required a negative test but this week introduced a five-day quarantine.
Article updated with regard to EU countries' rules.