Covid: France bans tourists from UK amid Omicron surge

ITV News Europe Editor James Mates has the latest on France's updated travel rules

France has banned tourists from Britain due to the spread of the Omicron variant in the UK, adding only those with a "compelling reason" to travel will be allowed entry.

From midnight on Friday, people arriving from Britain will be required to show a negative Covid test that is less than 24 hours old, to test again upon arrival and self-isolate for seven days, although that can be reduced to 48 hours if the second test is negative.

Tourism and business trips will be limited and French travellers are being dissuaded from visiting the UK.

The restrictions may impact those who booked a Christmas break in France.

In a statement, the office of French Prime Minister Jean Castex said: “In the face of the extremely rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the United Kingdom, the government has chosen to reinstate compelling reasons for travel to and from the United Kingdom, and to strengthen the requirement for testing on departure and arrival.

“In the UK government’s own words, the UK will face a ‘tidal wave’ linked to the Omicron variant in the coming days.”

Travellers will need a “compelling reason” to travel to or from the UK, though that does not apply to French nationals and their spouses and children, the statement says.

“These compelling reasons do not include tourism or business reasons,” it continues.

“Vaccinated people must present a negative test (PCR or TAG) of less than 24 hours, which is in line with the rules already in place for unvaccinated people.”

Travellers from the UK must “register, prior to their trip, on a digital platform and provide the address of their stay in France”.

There is growing pressure on hospitals in France from rising infections in recent weeks.

Delta remains the dominant variant in France, but Omicron is spreading so fast in Britain that it’s raising concerns across the Channel.

The UK recorded the highest number of confirmed new Covid-19 infections Wednesday since the pandemic began, and England’s chief medical officer warned the situation is likely to get worse as the Omicron variant drives a new wave of illness during the Christmas holidays.

Amid questions over how the new policy will affect cross-Channel trade, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said hauliers will be exempt.

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He tweeted: “To confirm I have liaised with my French counterpart (Jean-Baptiste Djebbari) and hauliers will remain exempt.”

A spokesman for ferry operator Brittany Ferries said: “These new measures are a hammer blow to our Christmas season.

“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.”

UK health minister Gillian Keegan said she has had to cancel a skiing trip to France over Christmas due to the rising threat of Omicron.

Asked on LBC radio whether she has been forced to change her Christmas plans, she said: “I have altered them several times.

“I was, at one point, intending to go away skiing, but that’s changed.

“So now I will be with a small group, I think there six of us – actually there was going to be seven for Christmas Day but one person has tested positive so will be isolating over Christmas Day – so I think there’s going to be six of us.”