There are thought to be up to 400,000 British people currently on holiday and other trips in France, many of whom will now be trying to find a way to make a last-minute rush home to avoid having to quarantine for two weeks on return.
The British government announced late on Thursday (August 13) that all travellers from France and Monaco arriving in the UK from 04:00 Saturday August 15 will need to self-isolate for two weeks. The Foreign Office has also now changed its advice on travelling to France to “only essential travel”.
The British Embassy in Paris cites France’s rising number of coronavirus cases as the reason.
“Data from France shows that over the past week (7th -13th August) there has been a 66% increase in newly reported cases and a 52% increase in weekly incidence rate per 100,000 population, indicating a sharp rise in COVID-19,” it said in a press release.
Short-notice quarantine rules ‘silly’
The short notice is likely to lead to many people desperately searching for a way back to the UK today, a situation similar to when the UK imposed last-minute quarantine measures on people travelling from Spain at the end of July.
Tara, 26, a master’s student from Scotland, is on holiday in Nice visiting friends. She said she knew it was a risk when she booked the holiday, but is still a little surprised by the government announcement.
“I was checking the figures every day, but I am still surprised because I think the figures are nowhere near as bad in France yet as they were in Spain when they imposed the lockdown,” she told Connexion.
“I’m not necessarily against the whole quarantine process as I knew it was a risk, but I don’t think it’s the best way that they’ve done it, I think people will end up rushing to the airport all at once.”
She is due to fly back to the UK on Sunday night, and said that she checked the options for going back today but they were “basically non-existent”.
“I am in the fortunate situation that when I get back I can work online and I am off studying so being at home is not the worst thing in terms of responsibilities.”
However, she said that it would not be possible for her to fully self-isolate when she got back home, at least not initially.
“My dad’s girlfriend is a nurse, we’re not sure if my dad can come and pick me up at the airport when I get back as he and his girlfriend may then need to quarantine,” she said. “If not I’ll have to stay in a hotel for a night and then take public transport to get back home, so whatever I do, I can’t immediately completely isolate or quarantine.”
On Thursday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK would be “ruthless” when imposing measures to combat the spread of coronavirus.
“We can’t be remotely complacent about our own situation. Everybody understands that in a pandemic you don’t allow our population to be reinfected or the disease to come back in,” he said, speaking on a visit to Northern Ireland.
“That is why quarantine measures are very important and we have to apply them in a very strict way,” he said.
The British Embassy in France has stated that “people already in France are not being advised to leave but if they choose to change their return date to the UK, they should contact their travel provider in the first instance and ensure they are familiar with their insurance policy coverage”.
“Travellers should only go to airports, ferry or train terminals if they have a booking,” it stresses.
Impact on British travel industry
Besides the British tourists already in France, a lot of Britons will now be cancelling upcoming holidays to France, according to a spokesman for British travel association ABTA. For people set to depart imminently to France, he said he thinks “the vast majority” may cancel.
He said this will have a huge negative effect on the British travel industry.
“The industry has already gone through some very tough times, and France is the second most important holiday destination for the UK travel industry after Spain, which has already had a ban imposed,” he said.
“So yes, it will have a very serious impact on the industry, which is why we have said to the British government that they need to start looking at providing assistance for the travel industry. Other countries around Europe have already been doing this. The British government has not and it needs to start as a matter of urgency.”
For any British person planning to ignore government advice not to travel to France and continue with their holiday plans, they will no longer be covered by private insurance. The ABTA spokesperson advised people to think carefully about their holiday destinations.
“If you do wish to go, our advice is to book a package holiday rather than travelling independently because if the advice changes then your tour operator will give you a number of options meaning that you do not lose out financially,” he said.