PARIS, France: As the government in Paris is attempting to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, France is tightening its restrictions for travelers arriving from the UK.
Confirmed Omicron cases are currently much higher in the UK than in France.
Effective December 19, most travelers who are not residents or citizens of France must provide a “compelling reason” to enter the country, with the exception of some lorry drivers and students, but British citizens visiting relatives are not currently exempted.
All arrivals must also provide a negative COVID-19 test conducted less than 24 hours before arrival and isolate for a minimum of two days.
French citizens, their partners, and children, legal residents, along with EU citizens traveling home through France, will not need an essential reason to travel, but must still follow all other rules.
As of December 16, 78,610 new COVID-19 cases were recorded in the UK, the highest daily number reported since the start of the pandemic, with just over 10,000 being confirmed as Omicron.
Meanwhile, France reported 65,713 new cases over a similar period, but only 240 were confirmed as Omicron.
In a statement, French Prime Minister Jean Castex’s office said, “As the Omicron variant has spread extremely quickly in the UK, the French government has decided to re-implement compelling reasons for travels from and to the UK, and to reinforce mandatory tests at departures and arrivals.”
Following fears over the impact on supply chains, UK Transport Minister Grant Shapps confirmed that lorry drivers would be exempt from the new restrictions, and the UK government said there are no plans to ban French travellers from the UK.
France’s list of accepted reasons for entry does not include tourism, family visits or non-urgent work.
Hamza Taouzzale, who was forced to cancel a family holiday to Disneyland Paris, told the BBC, “We only told the kids yesterday, and they were so excited. They have never been to Disneyland before.”
In a statement, Brittany Ferries said the new rules “could be 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,” it added.