Omicron leads France to impose ‘more drastic’ border controls on travelers from COVID-stricken Britain

December 16, 2021, 9:26 AM UTC
Updated December 16, 2021, 10:01 AM UTC

France will impose tougher rules on people arriving from the U.K., including requiring them to self-isolate, as it tries to slow the spread of the Omicron variant

“We are going to put in place more drastic controls at the border with the U.K.,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Thursday in an interview with BFM television.

The plan comes after the U.K. recorded on Wednesday its highest number of positive COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with 78,610 infections. The new French measures will kick in at midnight on Friday.

Among measures to be imposed, France will reduce the validity of COVID tests to 24 hours from 48 hours currently, Attal said. The rule will apply to all arrivals, including the fully vaccinated. People traveling to France from the U.K. will also have to self-isolate for seven days. This restriction can be lifted after 48 hours on proof of a negative test. 

Justifications for coming to France will be limited, with all non-essential tourist and business travel to France to be barred. French citizens and their families as well as residents can return home. The French government called on people planning on visiting the U.K. to delay their trips. 

The moves are aimed at allowing more time for French people to get COVID vaccine boosters, Attal said, adding that 240 omicron cases had been detected in France so far and that others were being investigated.

“What we need to do is delay its development in France as much as possible,” he said. “We think the majority of cases in the U.K. will be the omicron variant in the coming hours or days if they aren’t already.” 

England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, said Wednesday that omicron was spreading at a “phenomenal pace” and that “substantial numbers” of people will need hospital treatment in the coming weeks. 

Officials estimate that omciron infections are doubling roughly every two days. On Monday, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said there could be 200,000 new cases that day.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is battling to ensure Britons are able to socialize freely at Christmas after imposing tight restrictions a year ago. A recent tightening of curbs saw the return of mandatory mask-wearing in many indoor spaces, a call for people to work from home, and the introduction of COVID passes for venues. 

However, a rebellion in Parliament by members of Johnson’s own party cast doubt over the prime minister’s ability to introduce further measures in future. On Wednesday, Whitty said people should limit social contacts in the run-up to Christmas.

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