As travel restrictions ease in the UK, travellers from France will still be required to self-isolate due to fears over its current outbreak of the Beta variant, a moved which the French foreign affairs minister deems “excessive”.
From Monday, UK citizens returning from amber list countries are not required to self-isolate, but French travellers will still isolate for 10 days regardless of vaccination status.
French Foreign Affairs Minister Clément Beaune expressed his concern about the rule to BFM TV when the announcement was made.
“We don’t think that the United Kingdom’s decisions are totally based on scientific foundations. We find them excessive,” he said.
Currently France is recording fewer daily COVID-19 infections than the UK, with over 10,000 new cases reported in the last three days, compared with the UK, which recorded 50,000.
But the restriction comes as the Beta variant, first discovered in South Africa last September, continues to spread through France, which could threaten to worsen the UK’s already high infection rate.
Although the Delta variant dominates mainland France, the Beta has spread to the French island of La Reunion, a department in the Indian Ocean.
The Beta variant is considered highly contagious, and was likely the largest factor of South Africa’s second wave of COVID-19.
Despite the fears, a French ambassador to the UK, Catherine Colonna, tweeted that the Beta variant only represents 9 per cent of cases in France, and has fallen since April.
Useful information updated as of July 14:
The Beta variant is only 9% in France (overseas included) and keeps declining (minus 55% in the last 30 days, minus 43,8% in the last 7 days). It is 3% in Paris. #StaySafe https://t.co/yQTDt00RfN pic.twitter.com/brFrvq96xo
— Catherine Colonna (@AmbColonna) July 19, 2021
Josh Edmunds, a member of the UK government’s SAGE advisory, told BBC Radio 4 on the weekend that scientists fear the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine won’t protect against the Beta variant.
“It is probably less infectious than the Delta variant that is spreading here in the UK at the moment,” he said.
“Where it [Delta] has an advantage is that it is able to escape the immune response to a better extent [compared with the Beta variant].”
After the long-awaited announcement on Monday was made for UK citizens, most travel and general restrictions were eased.
This included no limits on gatherings, no required masks, and the re-opening of restaurants, cafés and pubs.
While England holds a tight rein on French travellers, France mandated that all unvaccinated UK citizens would need to provide a negative PCR test 24 hours before visiting.
This is in place of the original rule, which required a negative within 48 hours. The guideline does not apply to fully vaccinated travellers.
Double-jabbed travellers can now arrive in France without proof of a negative test from both amber list and red list countries.
Announced by Prime Minister Jean Castex over the weekend, the change also applies to Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, Greece and the Netherlands.