France has slammed Britain’s decision to single it out as the only European country for which 10-day quarantine will be required for fully vaccinated travellers, branding the move as “excessive”, “discriminatory” and “scientifically unfounded”.
The decision, which the UK Government has blamed on the supposed prevalence of the beta variant in France, has infuriated British and French expatriates, along with Britons hoping to holiday in France.
Clément Beaune, France’s Europe minister, suggested one reason behind the move could be that other EU countries, which have been waived quarantine, enjoy “more tourist flows with the UK than us”.
He said he was personally examining the possibility of imposing “reciprocal” measures, even if they would not be implemented immediately.
Clément Beaune, France's Europe minister, says he is examining the possibility of imposing 'reciprocal' measures against the UK
Credit: STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images
On Wednesday, the UK Cabinet’s Covid-O committee announced that fully vaccinated EU and US citizens would be allowed to enter England without having to quarantine from August 2. They must still pay for Covid tests on day two and eight after entry.
However, travellers from France to the UK will still need to quarantine for 10 days.
“It’s excessive, and it’s frankly incomprehensible on health grounds… It’s not based on science and discriminatory towards the French,” Mr Beaune told LCI, a French news channel. “I hope it will be reviewed as soon as possible, it’s just common sense.
“Every country in Europe has seen quarantine obligations lifted by the UK and not France if I understand correctly, due to the beta or notorious South African variant, which represents less than five per cent of cases in France and can be found above all in overseas territories (notably Reunion Island) that are not concerned by flows to the UK.”
Catherine Colonna, France’s ambassador to the UK, said that 89 per cent of Covid cases in France are now of the delta variant, while only “2 per cent” of cases in “continental France” are beta.
Proportion of B.1.351 (Beta) variant among sequenced cases in European Economic Area
The French national health body, Santé Publique France, put the overall beta figure, including overseas territories, at 3.2 per cent.
According to GISAID, the percentage of new beta cases over the past four weeks in France was only 2.6 per cent, while it was 14.7 per cent in Spain which has seen quarantine waived.
The UK’s move has left British residents in France fuming.
“Enough is enough,” wrote Nicolas Williams, a France-based travel writer. “As a Brit desperate to be able to travel freely to the UK to see my family, I’m feeling incredibly victimised right now. This makes ZERO sense.”
Alexandre Holroyd, the French MP for Northern Europe, called the decision “absurd”. “Quarantine for the fully vaccinated from Lille but not Brussels, Paris but not Miami, Annecy but not Geneva, Montpellier but not Barcelona.”
% of covid cases sequenced by variant type
In a later tweet, Mr Holroyd likened the policy to “Kafka on holiday with Godot”.
Mr Beaune said the UK’s decision was all the more unfathomable as “even those (EU countries) with a more difficult health situation than our own regarding delta or other variants are no longer concerned by this quarantine”.
He said Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French foreign minister, had raised the issue twice with his UK counterpart, Dominic Raab, who was in Paris three days ago.
“We cannot force the British to change,” he said, adding: “I am all for examining reciprocal measures.” However, he said that there would be “no tit-for-tat sanctions at this stage”.
Jean-Yves Le Drian, France's foreign minister, raised the issue of the UK's quarantine requirements for French travellers with Dominic Raab earlier this week
Credit: SAMEER AL-DOUMY/AFP/Getty Images
“We base our decisions on health considerations, which is why the British are in our so-called orange category – when they are vaccinated, no problem (no quarantine or test); when they aren’t, compelling reasons are required.”
The French outburst came amid UK reports that restrictions on travel from France could be dropped next week as part of a review of the Government’s traffic light system.
France will likely be removed from the amber-plus list after government officials appeared to acknowledge the threat from the beta variant had been contained.
Sources said the delta variant, which is prevalent in the UK, was spreading faster and would “out-compete” beta in Europe in the next weeks. It is also unlikely that Spain and Greece will be added to the amber-plus list despite a rise in case rates, according to reports.