Why some ‘fully jabbed’ people in France must still quarantine in UK
Journalist Suzanna Chambers discovers a discrepancy in how the two countries recognize natural immunity which means she and thousands of others will still have to self isolate on arrival in England
France and England do not share the same vision of full vaccination Pic: Brookgardener / Shutterstock
It is the news that we had all been waiting for. The British government had finally seen sense and allowed France to join the much envied amber list after several weeks alone in amber-plus territory.
This meant that after more than 12 months apart, my direct family (we live in France) would be able to fly back to England from Nice, without the need to isolate for 10 days, to see grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins, all of whom had been sorely missed.
But a nagging feeling at the back of my mind late on Wednesday night after the UK government announced changes to England’s travel rules made me stop in my tracks. I hovered over the BUY NOW button as I prepared to book our flights - and decided against it.
Having had Covid in October last year, myself, my husband and two of my three children had all just received one dose of Pfizer. In France, we are considered fully vaccinated and our vaccination certificate on the TousAntiCovid clearly states as much - we have had one out of one vaccine.
However, this does not wash with the British government, who told me yesterday that “the UK does not currently recognise natural immunity in the same way that France does, so passengers would need two doses to avoid quarantine from an amber country, unless it is a one-dose vaccine.”
Why am I not surprised? My mum had been voicing concerns ever since she heard the policy in France was to only administer one dose to those that had recovered from Covid. But I naively thought they would have worked this one out before announcing that the borders were open to fully vaccinated people from France.
France announced in February that it recommended that people who have already recovered from Covid should receive a single vaccine dose. The reason was that people who had already been infected with the virus developed an immune response similar to that experienced by a vaccine dose, and that a single dose after infection would likely suffice. Germany and Italy have implemented the same measure.
It made sense to me, and I liked the idea that my ‘spare’ dose could be given to someone still awaiting their first dose. However, the policy in the UK has always been to administer two doses to everyone over the age of 18, regardless of whether they had had Covid or not.
I do not mind admitting that I burst into tears on receiving confirmation from the Department of Transport that I would still have to quarantine for 10 days if I travelled to England. As a family, we are desperate to go back to our native home which we last visited together at Christmas 2019.
Since then we have missed a great many milestones - my father’s 80th birthday, my children’s 16th and 18th, wedding anniversaries, new puppies, end of school graduations - and numerous other events that we would have normally celebrated together. For, despite having lived in France for 18 years, we have made a point of nipping back and forth regularly to see family and friends.
The strict quarantine rules and extortionate cost of PCR tests have meant that we, like so many other expat families, have been effectively cut off. We have been unable to visit a terminally ill relative, who we are now unlikely to see again. My son, who was offered an incredible scholarship to study at a UK boarding school, is also seriously considering his options as he just cannot face any more extended periods locked inside and the idea that he will be unable to come home for holidays.
On hearing the latest travel blow I called the Metropole Nice Côte d'Azur vaccination center to ask if we could get a second dose. The reply was curt and to the point: “It’s not possible, sorry.”
My family certainly will not be alone in battling this latest upsetting and frustrating development in Anglo-Franco travel restrictions in the Covid era.
The Connexion has asked the Direction Générale de la Santé for information on how many people have fully vaccinated status in France after having just one dose because they have had Covid. We will update this article if we receive an update.