Many families' holiday plans "could now be in complete disarray", says Political Correspondent Libby Wiener as she explains what the rules are now if you're planning to travel to France
Travellers arriving in England from France must quarantine even if they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 after a rise in cases of the Beta variant, which was first identified in South Africa.
Although fully vaccinated UK residents arriving from amber list countries will no longer have to quarantine for 10 days from Monday, the government has now said this will not apply to France due to the “persistent presence” of the Beta (formerly known as the South African) variant.
Anyone who has visited France in the last 10 days will need to self-isolate after arriving in England and will need to take a coronavirus test on days two and eight, regardless of their vaccination status.
The move comes after reports that British ministers are considering putting France on the travel red list.
Currently it remains on the amber list.
The Telegraph, citing sources, reported that the proposal was discussed on Wednesday as part of a review of international travel. Sources also told Sky News some health figures are pushing to make the change.
Amber list exemptions for key workers such as hauliers will remain in place.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “We have always been clear that we will not hesitate to take rapid action at our borders to stop the spread of Covid-19 and protect the gains made by our successful vaccination programme.
“With restrictions lifting on Monday across the country, we will do everything we can to ensure international travel is conducted as safely as possible, and protect our borders from the threat of variants.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Travel will be different this year and whilst we are committed to continuing to open up international travel safely, our absolute priority is to protect public health here in the UK.
“We urge everyone thinking about going abroad this summer to check their terms and conditions as well as the travel restrictions abroad before they go.”
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UK travellers in France have described their “frustration” after discovering they will need to quarantine when returning home from Monday, despite being fully vaccinated. Georgina Thomas, a nurse from Buckinghamshire, has been visiting her parents in the countryside between La Rochelle and Bordeaux for the last three weeks with her baby daughter. “I’m frustrated with the inconsistent approach the government are taking, it doesn’t all appear logical,” the 32-year-old said. “If a quarantine is necessary, then so be it but I’m confident that my risk will be higher when I return to the UK.” Ms Thomas is still on maternity leave and said of quarantining on her return: “It will be a long 10 days but we are the fortunate ones, I understand that. Plenty will think we shouldn’t be travelling anyway.”
Commenting on the announcement that double-jabbed travellers arriving in the UK from France will have to quarantine, Henry Smith MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Future of Aviation, said: “This announcement is a real setback to international travel.
“We all expected that the traffic light system would provide much-needed certainty yet our current approach has only delivered confusion which continues to prevent any meaningful recovery for our aviation, travel and tourism sectors.
“Yet again, a last-minute announcement raises significant questions about whether the traffic light system is fit for purpose in its current form and pushes the UK further behind Europe despite our world-leading vaccination programme.
“We cannot afford to continue with this on-again, off-again approach to international travel, which is leaving consumer confidence in tatters, pushing businesses to the brink and will lead to further job losses.”
Meanwhile, consumer champion Which? criticised the timing of the announcement.
"People will agree or disagree about whether it’s right to impose further restrictions on travel from France, but there’s no excuse for announcing it late on a Friday night," travel editor Rory Boland said.
"This will cause chaos for people who have just arrived in France, who will now face quarantine on their return or those who are due to travel there imminently. Many will struggle to get a refund or claim on their insurance."
Mr Boland urged travel companies to support affected holidaymakers and provide them with clear information about their options. He said firms should give customers due to visit France the chance to rebook or get a refund if they can no longer travel.
ABTA, the association of travel agents and tour operators, said the move will reduce consumer confidence.
“While we understand that public health must come first, this announcement will undoubtedly dent consumer confidence in overseas travel just as we are about to see many amber-listed countries opening up for UK visitors in time for the summer holidays," a spokesperson said.
"This news is just the latest example of why a tailored package of financial support for the travel and tourism sector must be introduced.”
Nick Thomas Symonds, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, described the situation as chaotic.
“The UK government’s Covid border restrictions are descending into further chaos. “Boris Johnson’s incompetence let the Delta variant in and allowed it to spread with such force. Now, Ministers are making up rules on the hoof regarding France and causing chaos - they have never had a proper strategy in place; once again the travel industry and the British people are paying the price. “The government must now publish full data behind the traffic light system and update on progress on international vaccine passports.”