French summer holidays have been thrown into chaos when ministers announced they would reintroduce rules requiring fully vaccinated Britons in quarantine.
All tourists arriving from the country from Monday will have to isolate themselves at home for up to 10 days and reverse the plans for an exemption for those who have had two shots. It comes amid growing concern over the spread of beta, formerly known as the South African variant, and fears it may be more resistant to current vaccines.
The announcement, which comes in the middle of the end of school hours and just 48 hours before all legal Covid-19 restrictions are lifted in the UK, is likely to throw holiday plans for tens of thousands of people into disarray.
Under the new system called “Amber plus”, there is also no way for Britons already in France to escape the change in policy this weekend, as the current requirement for all travelers to isolate themselves at home, when they return from all the yellow list countries remain in place until Monday.
For all other amber countries except France, double-weekend travelers after the weekend avoid isolating themselves when returning to the UK, even though they still have to fill out a passenger location form and take a Covid-19 test abroad and also two days after arriving home.
Arrived amber lists are able to halve their time in quarantine if they choose to take a test on day five and test negative.
On Friday night, the government confirmed that arrivals from France would still be able to be released from quarantine on day five during testing and release.
People traveling through France by train from other amber European countries, such as Belgium, may still be able to avoid quarantine, although this will be subject to “specific arrangements” made by the operators.
Existing exemptions for key workers, such as transport companies, also remain in place.
Change comes despite secret diplomatic push
The announcement threatens to undermine a secret diplomatic push to persuade foreign countries to drop quarantine requirements for double-vaccinated Britons in time for August, which can be revealed today by The Telegraph.
It is also likely to trigger a new setback for the aviation and travel industry, which has been pushed by the decision on Wednesday to move the Balearic Islands back to the yellow list just two weeks after they went green.
That came when official figures from Public Health England (PHE), released on Friday, saw cases top 50,000 for the first time since January.
The total daily death was 49 with 717 hospitalized with Covid-19. Currently, there are 551 people in the hospital on ventilators, the highest level since March.
While France’s daily affairs remain significantly below those of the United Kingdom, health officials have become increasingly concerned about the prevalence of the beta variant in the country.
Beta doubling in France
The latest publicly available data from Public Health France show that the incidence of the beta variant in France has almost doubled in 14 days.
About 15 percent of Covid-19 cases in France are now the beta variant, according to research based on coronavirus cases sequenced on June 22.
This is the highest it has been since Public Health France’s surveys started, marking an increase of around eight percent in the previous week.
While the delta variant is becoming the dominant strain across large parts of Europe, doctors and researchers are particularly concerned about beta because it is thought to be more resistant to vaccines.
A number of studies have suggested that the beta variant reduces the effect of existing vaccines – including Oxford-AstraZeneca – to varying degrees, although health experts are still said to be unsure to what extent.