UK travel traffic light review: Why France is not expected to go green
France’s Covid figures are looking good, with the latest case rates lower than some places on the UK’s green list, but it is thought it will not be enough to convince the UK government
The UK’s latest review of its traffic light travel scheme is to be announced this afternoon – but it is considered highly unlikely France will figure on the green list.
It is thought that the UK will continue its cautious approach to opening up, which at present means no European country other than Gibraltar figures on the list.
Malta, with a recent very low 14-day case rate of 9.3 per 100,000, and the Balearic Islands and Madeira (islands that are respectively part of Spain and Portugal) are among a few countries or areas that are in the running, UK media report, citing government sources.
This is despite the fact that France now has low numbers of new cases and minimal levels of variants other than the dominant ‘British’ (Alpha) as well as growing cases of the ‘Indian’ (Delta) variant, which is already highly prevalent in the UK.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated on Monday: “I want to stress that this is going to be – whatever happens – a difficult year for travel.
"There will be hassle, there will be delays I am afraid, because the priority has got to be to keep the country safe and stop the virus coming back in."
The UK has not been explicit about the figures it requires to move a country to its green list which exempts arrivals from the 10-day quarantine and having only to take one test on day two after arrival and not an additional day eight test.
However criteria taken into account are known to include vaccination and infection rates and the levels of ‘variants of concern’.
With just 2,320 cases in the last 24 hours according to the latest French figures and 32 million having had at least a first vaccine dose, France should, based on the figures, be worthy of consideration – a fact which has led Brittany Ferries, among others, to call for it to be placed on the green list “immediately”.
As for levels of variants, website CovidTracker shows that some 74.6% of new cases in France are the Alpha variant which originated in the UK, while only 6.3% are the South African or Brazilian variants.
The French government stated in an update yesterday however that some 9-10% of cases are now the Delta variant.
Data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, based on the period May 31 to June 13, show the 14-day case rate for France as being higher than countries on the UK’s current green list, at 110.74 compared to 77.77 or 56.39 for the Faroe Islands and Gibraltar, which have the most cases among the green list areas (some others are in single figures).
However as of Monday June 20, France reported a seven-day rate of just 24, putting it below those areas if the current trend is maintained (daily case numbers have remained low this week).
The UK government is reportedly looking at allowing UK residents to visit amber list countries and return without quarantine, however this has not been confirmed. It is also said by UK media to be considering an even stricter testing regime for those concerned.
It comes as Le Figaro this week criticised the UK’s ‘mind-boggling’ existing regime for visitors.
It said crossing the border comes with “administrative hassles which represent a kind of barbed wire fence”.
They include, it recalled, a PCR or antigen test before going, then a 10-day quarantine, with tests on day two and eight, unless you pay for a fourth test on day five, for ‘early release’.
“That’s where the extortion starts, with measures that are as costly as they are absurd,” Le Figaro quoted one French resident in the UK, ‘Marc’, as having said.
Marc said the current version of the obligatory ‘Passenger Locator Form’ requires you to fill in details of the testing kits you have ordered, which cost around £150, plus £75 if you want the additional test.
UK government rules state that even if you are visiting for less than eight days you must still book a day eight test.
On top of that the French ask travellers to the UK who are not fully vaccinated to provide an essential reason for the trip.
Marc noted that the home-test kits used in the UK could easily be subject to abuse as you could “put it up your neighbour’s nose, or even your dog’s”.
An analysis of NHS test and trace figures by The Times has showed that only 0.4% of those returning from an amber country between May 20 and June 9 were found to be positive for Covid and no passenger was found to have a ‘variant of concern’.