Double-vaccinated travelers returning to England from France will still have to quarantine next week after ministers made a last minute change to the rules that come into effect from Monday.
As of July 19, all Britons who have had two Covid shots on their way back from countries with an amber list have been told not to go through isolation of up to 10 days at home.
That will remain the case everywhere, except in France. The Guardian revealed earlier this week that there were concerns about the country given the rise in cases of the beta variant – first identified in South Africa.
Ministers were divided on the official advice given to them on Wednesday by the Joint Biosecurity Center which suggested adding France to the red list – a key move that would see only British citizens and nationals allowed to enter England and then were forced to spend 11 nights. to stay in a hotel from £1,750.
They decided against the move, a government source said, due to the significant diplomatic and political implications, but discussions continued over the next two days, culminating in a decision announced late Friday night.
It will affect thousands of British holidaymakers who were about to take advantage of the new lighter regime to let them go to France during school holidays, as well as travelers hoping to visit relatives across the Channel.
Anyone who has been fully vaccinated and who arrives from France after July 19 – or has been in the country for the past 10 days – can still leave the quarantine after day five using the “test to release” system.
All travelers will be required to continue to take a pre-departure test and complete the passenger locating form, with those who have had both shots also showing proof of their vaccine certificate via the NHS app or on a printed letter.
The change was called “a real setback” by Tory MP Henry Smith, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Future of Aviation.
He said the traffic light system that assesses countries based on their quarantine requirements was intended to provide “needed certainty” but “had only caused confusion”, and the “last-minute announcement raises important questions” about whether the system fit for purpose.
“We cannot afford to continue with this on-again, off-again approach to international travel, which is shattering consumer confidence, pushing businesses to the brink and will lead to further job losses,” Smith added. up.
The change was made as a “precautionary measure,” the health ministry said, adding it would “continue to review the latest data and monitor the beta variant’s prevalence.”
Sajid Javid, the health secretary, said he had warned the government would take “rapid action” if necessary and promised to “do everything” to protect the country from the import of variants.
In a separate development, British citizens will be largely denied entry Bulgaria next week despite the country progressing to the UK’s quarantine-free green list at the same point.
Just two days after the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, announced that Bulgaria and Hong Kong were added to the green list, Bulgarian Health Minister Stoycho Katsarov announced that the UK, along with Cyprus, Spain, Fiji and Kuwait, are on its own high-risk “red zone” list was placed.
It means that from Monday only Bulgarian citizens, long-term residents and their immediate family members will be eligible to enter the UK.
The decision was made after the daily number of new coronavirus cases in the UK rose above 50,000 for the first time in six months – almost all the Delta variant. The latest spike in infections showed little sign of slowing down and it is feared they could reach 100,000 relatively soon when most legal restrictions are eased in England from Monday.