Omicron: France travel ban sparks huge queues at Dover as thousands race to beat deadline

Queues at the Port of Dover on Friday - just hours before a travel ban deadline is set to kick in. Credit: PA

A woman from Hampshire who's been forced to cancel her family Christmas in France because of the travel ban says they've been left angry and disappointed.

From midnight a ban on UK arrivals into France will take effect, potentially causing major disruption for those planning trips over the festive period.

French authorities say, only people with a 'compelling reason' to travel will be allowed entry into the country afterwards - due to concerns over the spread of the new Covid variant, Omicron.

People intending to travel through France to other countries can only continue with their trip if they are remaining in the international area of an airport for under 24 hours.

Those allowed to enter France will need to provide evidence of a negative coronavirus test taken less than 24 hours in advance, and must isolate for at least two days.

Juliet Horgan was due to be travelling to France tomorrow with ten members of her family to spend Christmas skiing in the Alps.

She told ITV News, "We originally arranged our skiing holiday in January, ten of us were supposed to be going to Morzine in France, now obviously with all the restrictions, we've had to change everything.

"It's all very disappointing for everyone involved.

"We were originally going to Geneva, but then we weren't allowed to go to Switzerland, so we changed it to a hotel in France. We've had to change lots of things, it's been very complicated.

"We've had to cancel it entirely now."

Juliet Horgan

"It would have been too complicated to try and go today (Friday). There's ten of us involved, including four children. We got flights, while some were driving, so we never could have done that.

"We were supposed to be there for Christmas and were coming back on the 27th, so now all of our Christmas plans have totally changed last minute.

"It's not the end of the world, but it is disappointing.

"We are angry about the last minute change, but also we are not happy about the restrictions that were put in place in England that meant we have to have tests two days before we left France. That was also going to worry us the whole time we were in France.

She continued, "We've been looking forward to this for a long time.

Juliet's family managed to cancel their flights, due to a time change, but said the children had ski lessons booked, so is unsure whether she will be able to secure a refund.

Large queues formed on Friday morning at Dover.

Long queues have been building up at the Port of Dover as thousands of people frantically race to cross the Channel to France before the new travel restrictions come into force.

Gatwick Airport is reporting a surge in passenger numbers following the announcement, with EasyJet’s three flights from the airport to Paris Charles de Gaulle on Friday sold out.

There's also been a rise in demand on the region's ferry services as people try and move their travel plans forward to avoid the restrictions.

Chris Parker of ferry service DFDS said, "We were expecting a bit of a rush over the weekend anyway. Saturday was going to be our busiest day of the year, because we've seen a lot of people move their bookings forward.

"As it stands, we are full from midday on Friday onwards.

"Most of the people who were due to travel on Saturday have been able to move their travel forwards.

Chris Parker, from ferry service DFDS:

"It has come at a bad time unfortunately, Even if the new controls had come in on Monday or Tuesday, we would have been able to get the vast majority of people home before Christmas, but this is the situation that we face.

"What we've been most worried about is how can we help customers, what can we do and how can we get information to them. It's been a very fast moving 24 hours in terms of the rules and being able to keep on top of that.

"From a company perspective, it's very disappointing. We would hope that these controls get removed as quickly as they've been put in.

"Of course we understand the need for controls in France. We understand the concerns over the Omicron variant - everyone does, but I hope as we get control on this that those restrictions will be removed very quickly."

  • Lisa Francesca Nand, travel journalist:

She added, "The travel industry is already quite decimated - it's on its knees.

"There's been no industry specific support. I speak to travel agents daily, who are struggling because there are no bookings coming in for January and February.

"The worry is that the restrictions will get worse. I don't think the Government even know what they are going to do at the moment, there are rumours going round that things are going to get worse, but rumours don't always come to fruition.

"A few weeks ago we were told there weren't going to be any additions to the red list, then there were additions and now suddenly there is an empty red list again.

"I don't think we can predict what's going to happen, and it's that that is killing people's plans to travel and also the travel industry.

"Who wants to go to a foreign country and test positive on their way home in the pre-departure tests that have been re-introduced. Who wants to test positive when they come back or wait six days for their day two PCR test.

Eurostar said in a statement that “we understand and fully support” the need for governments to tighten travel rules in the interests of public health, but once a variant is being spread within communities “it is difficult to see what further purpose such restrictions serve”.

The company added: “It is important that they are not in place any longer than is absolutely evidenced and necessary.”