People affected by France’s new restrictions on visitors coming from the UK have described the move as “depressing” and questioned how effective it will be considering that the Omicron variant is already present in France.
Under the new rules, people will only be allowed to enter France from the UK if they have an ‘essential reason’ from Saturday (December 18).
This will allow French nationals and residents to enter but not tourists or people visiting family.
French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal told BFMTV this morning (December 16) that these measures will help the government to “slow down, to reduce as much as possible the arrival of cases of the Omicron variant into our territory.”
One Connexion reader said she was “appalled and upset” at not being offered a refund for her Boxing Day flight from Ryanair - she said the firm claimed this would not be possible as the flight was still running.
‘Predictable but depressing’
Others have had to cancel trips to visit family and friends, and are devastated that their “Christmas is cancelled".
“It’s heartbreaking,” one reader said. “I’ve got friends here who have just seen their Christmas disappear and I feel so sad for them.”
The new rules were also described by one reader as being “petty, political and pointless”, with another saying: “Omicron is in France, as it is in the rest of the world. I understand the need for all countries to protect their health services, however what happened to living with the virus? Do they really think it’s going away?”
Another reader told The Connexion that the new regulations are “predictable, but depressing at the same time.
“This is merely political posturing and may make some French nationals feel safer, but the virus is in both the UK and France and preventing people travelling back and forth is not going to make any difference to how this latest variant will evolve.
“The UK removed all countries from the 'red list' presumably because the stable door is already open and the horse has bolted.
“The extra Covid test prior to travelling should have been sufficient: or maybe introduce a day two test after arrival, but in line with other governments, the French decision appears to have been made out of panic and hasn't been properly thought through.”
240 Omicron cases confirmed in France
On December 15, the UK government reported that there were over 10,000 confirmed Omicron cases in the country, and nearly 25,000 suspected cases.
Around 240 Omicron cases have been confirmed in France, but it should be noted that the UK sequences more of its Covid cases, and so is more likely to detect the new variant. The real number of Omicron cases in France is therefore sure to be higher.
“Many people's Christmas and New Year plans are now in tatters for the second year running,” our reader continued, adding that travel companies such as ferry operators will be “facing a raft of cancellations and having to rework their sailing schedules yet again.”
A Brittany Ferries spokesperson told The Connexion that: "We are disappointed by the imposition of additional controls for travellers from the UK.
“In the context of an Omicron variant that is passing through the French population as it is in the UK, further border controls seem as unnecessary as they are unwelcome."
A spokesperson from DFDS Ferries stated that: “We are continuing to run our ferry services as usual, with up to 55 sailings per day running between Dover, Calais, and Dunkirk.
“We expect our services to be busy on Friday as people prepare to get away for Christmas to see family and friends before the restrictions come into effect. We have plenty of capacity for those who wish to travel with us.
“DFDS’ Travel Guarantee remains in place for passengers who already have a booking and wish to cancel or postpone. This means that you can rebook for free until 30 September 2023 if you are now unable to travel.
“We hope that these short-term measures in response to the spread of the Omicron variant will be lifted in the New Year.”
Some Connexion readers expressed support for the tightened restrictions, with one saying: “I live in France. Everybody wears a mask to go shopping or out to anywhere else. I am reliably informed that in Britain they don't.
“It is not how much infection you have now that is the problem. It is how fast you are going to spread it around.”
France’s new travel rules also mean that people arriving in the country will have to first present the negative result of a PCR or antigen test taken in the 24 hours before their journey begins rather than the 48 hours before.
Arrivals will also have to self-isolate for 10 days in a place of their choosing, although this quarantine period can be shortened if they take a PCR or antigen test after entering the country and return a negative result.