France’s official government spokesperson Gabriel Attal has said that Covid travel restrictions on arrivals from the UK should be eased “in the coming days” but has given no more detail.
Since Friday, fully vaccinated people coming from the UK are the only fully vaccinated people in the world who must give an ‘essential reason’ to come to France and enter a legally obligatory quarantine on arrival in France.
It comes also in a context in which France has announced 368,149 positive tests in 24 hours compared to 120,821 in the UK, with the Omicron variant – the reason for France’s tough border restrictions with the UK – now the dominant variant in both countries.
⚠️⚠️ Frontière - ⚠️⚠️— Alexandre Holroyd (@alexIholroyd) January 11, 2022
À la suite de nombreux échanges avec le #Gouvernement, de considérables allègements des mesures sanitaires aux frontières seront très prochainement annoncés.
Plus de détails ici dans les jours à venir
Asked by a journalist today about possible lifting of travel restrictions with the UK, Mr Attal said that last week, when announcing a short extension of the list of ‘essential reasons’ for UK to France travel, he had indicated that if we continue to see the same situation - “that’s to say an Omicron variant that’s easily become the majority of cases in France” - then “obviously we will continue to lighten the restrictions”.
He added: “I confirm that an extra easing of the border restrictions with the UK is going to be announced in the coming days.”
Mr Attal added that work was being done to finalise the changes but that he hoped the government would be able to make the announcement before the end of the week.
He was speaking following today’s (January 12) Conseil des ministres cabinet meeting.
A spokesperson for the UK travel association ABTA said: "France is an incredibly important destination for many ABTA members and the decision to ban UK holidaymakers had a devastating impact particularly on those selling snow and winter sports packages, city breaks and educational trips.
"Lifting of restrictions would be very welcome as many thousands of UK holidaymakers will be keen to travel to France over the coming weeks and months. The UK government had recognised that with Omicron being widespread in the UK, additional restrictions make little sense and we would hope the French authorities will adopt a similarly sensible and proportionate policy.”
The vice chairman of the British Community Committee of France, Christopher Chantrey said: “I wonder why the UK is being singled out, and if there is something else [other than Covid rates] behind this.
“There’s obviously something afoot but it’s disappointing we’ve got to wait further until the restrictions are lifted. And we can’t really judge what an ‘extra lightening’ refers to until we have more specific information about the content of what is being announced.
“We’ll have to wait for the famous ‘coming days’ to find out.”
He said he has recently heard, notably, of British residents annoyed over having had to cancel plans for French skiing holidays due to France’s restrictive rules.
UK commentators now hope that British people who booked to ski during the February half-term holidays, and who make up 13% of visitors to French mountain resorts during the winter season, will be able to come to France as planned. It comes also as one specialist ski travel operator, skiline.co.uk has put back on sale French ski chalet holidays from Saturday in expectation of the restrictions being lifted by then.
In a statement the company said: "We are expecting the French government to make an announcement this Wednesday to confirm that British vaccinated skiers can enter France from Saturday," adding that it will refund all reservations if the travel ban is not lifted in the specified time frame.
Mr Attal also said that the Covid situation was similar in France and the UK and that Omicron “clearly accounts for the majority of cases in France”.