France eases restrictions for business travellers but keeps near-total ban for everyone else

British people travelling for work can visit France again after the country’s Covid rules were relaxed slightly for the first time since a near-ban on visitors from the UK was put in place last month amid a surge in omicron cases. 

Travel is still only allowed for essential reasons but business trips are now permitted with immediate effect, so long as the traveller has a letter from their employer stating that the visit cannot be postponed. 

British citizens with a home in another EU country are now also formally allowed to pass through France.

The changes were welcomed by French MP Alexandre Holroyd, who said it was “a first step in easing travel restrictions, which I continue to advocate”.

Travellers will still need to present proof of full vaccination and a negative Covid test taken within 24 hours, plus all the existing paperwork. 

All other visitors remain banned unless they meet the criteria for essential reasons 

The French government sparked travel chaos by banning all non-essential travel from the UK on Dec. 18. Since then, travellers have had to have a "compelling reason" to visit, such as the death of a close relative or to appear before a French court. 

Hauliers have always been exempt from the ban. Elite athletes are also permitted to travel for tournaments with the agreement of the French sports ministry.

Earlier this week, Gabriel Attal, a French government spokesperson, said that France would make it a "bit easier" to travel to and from the UK by widening the official list of valid reasons for trips given the similarity in case numbers in the two countries. 

However, he stopped short of saying when the de facto travel ban would end. 

The UK is currently the subject of the strictest French rules after African countries including South Africa and Lesotho were removed from the ‘scarlet list’.

Omicron is now dominant in France and is driving a high number of daily infections. The country reported 261,481 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, less than the record of more than 332,000 set on Wednesday, but with a seven-day moving average of new cases above 200,000.

The UK on Thursday reported 179,756 Covid cases.

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