Covid: Fully jabbed arrivals from France must still quarantine

Fully jabbed travelers returning to England and Wales from France will still have to quarantine from Monday.

From 19 July, adults who have been double jabbed in the UK arriving from amber list countries will not need to isolate for 10 days.

But the government said the easing would not apply to France due to “persistent” cases of the Beta variant, first identified in South Africa.

There are concerns vaccines may not work as well against the Beta variant.

The Beta variant accounts for about 10% of new infections in France, but that includes the Indian Ocean territories of Reunion and Mayotte, where the variant is near-universal.

The more infectious Delta variant – first identified in India – accounts for almost all new cases in the UK.

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.”

Travel firms have criticized the move, accusing the government of causing confusion.

Willie Walsh, the director-general of the International Air Transport Association said “the UK has no coherent policy on international travel” and is “destroying its own travel sector and the thousands of jobs that rely on it”.

The government announcement means that anyone who has been in France in the previous 10 days will need to quarantine on arrival to England in their own accommodation and will need a day two and day eight test, regardless of their vaccination status.

This includes any fully vaccinated individual who transits through France from either a green or another amber country.

But ministers indicated that Eurostar passengers on services travelling through France would not need to quarantine if their train did not stop in the country.

Existing amber list exemptions for key workers such as hauliers will remain in place.

‘Difficult to understand’

Meanwhile, France has tightened its rules for UK travellers who are not fully vaccinated, requiring a negative test in the 24 hours before arrival from Sunday, rather than the 48 hours allowed previously.

But anyone fully vaccinated with a jab from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson will be exempt from providing a negative test.

French MEP Veronique Trillet-Lenoir told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that it was “difficult to understand” the UK rules, as the Beta variant is “not present at all” in mainland France, with France’s cases mainly being found in its overseas territories.

BBC Paris correspondent Hugh Schofield said there had been no official response from the French government yet, but it would be pushing for an explanation from its London counterpart for the toughened policy.

Travellers to the UK from France will still have the option of shortening their quarantine period through the Test to Release scheme – if they pay for a test on day five and are negative.

For arrivals from other amber list countries, the requirement to quarantine is being scrapped for the fully vaccinated and under-18s from Monday in all parts of the UK.

Each UK nation sets its own travel rules.

A Scottish government spokesperson said ministers were “considering the best approach” for arrivals from France “as we look to adopt a four-nation approach on international travel, where possible”.

Wales said it would be following the change set by England, while Northern Ireland is yet to announce its intention.