The British government ‘needs geography lessons’, says a UK lawyer, after a new quarantine law excluded the parts of France worst-hit by the Beta variant, said to be the UK’s reason for the law.
Lawyer Lynn Shaw contacted The Connexion as the policy came into force yesterday (July 19), excluding France – and only France – from a rule that people fully-vaccinated in the UK can skip quarantine on return from countries listed ‘amber’ in the UK’s traffic light scheme.
Ms Shaw identified that the statutory instrument (UK legislation) that creates the rule, says specifically that the category of people excluded from skipping quarantine are those who have been in ‘Metropolitan France’.
This is despite the fact that the UK has stated its reason for excluding France as the “persistent presence of cases in France of the Beta variant”.
This variant is present especially in the French overseas region and department of La Réunion, in the Indian Ocean, where it represents the majority of cases according to official French figures, whereas it is said to be “circulating at a low level” in mainland France.
Ms Shaw stated in an email that UK law would use the “generally accepted concept” of ‘Metropolitan France’ as meaning “that part of France that is physically in Europe”.
“Metropolitan France does not therefore include La Réunion, where the Beta cases that are causing the UK government concern seem to be.
“So we could come back from La Réunion via [nearby] amber-listed Mauritius without quarantining, but not from Calais.”
She added: “It’s always possible the UK government just needs some geography lessons to understand that La Réunion is a French department so its Covid numbers are included in French numbers and that La Réunion is not part of Metropolitan France.”
A July 6 report by the official Conseil scientifique, which advises the French government on the pandemic, put rates of the Beta variant in La Réunion at 95% of cases, whereas the most recent data for the whole of France place it at 9% and declining, according to France’s ambassador to the UK.
Useful information updated as of July 14:— Catherine Colonna (@AmbColonna) July 19, 2021
The Beta variant is only 9% in France (overseas included) and keeps declining (minus 55% in the last 30 days, minus 43,8% in the last 7 days). It is 3% in Paris. #StaySafe https://t.co/yQTDt00RfN pic.twitter.com/brFrvq96xo
The latest European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control data also shows the Beta variant to be more prevalent in Spain and Greece than France, even though these countries are not concerned by the UK’s quarantine rule.