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FirstFT: France to block UK tourists in fight against Omicron

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France will block entry to UK tourists, tightening its border restrictions in an effort to slow the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

The decision came as EU leaders expressed heightened alarm over the renewed surge in Covid-19 cases and tried to maintain a common approach to travel within the bloc.

Travel from the UK to France will be largely limited to French nationals, residents and their families, although exceptions have been made for students and some professions, such as doctors, which have a work-related reason to enter the country.

The French prime minister’s office said the curbs would apply from midnight on Friday.

  • More on Omicron’s impact: The head of Delta Air Lines said he expected the Omicron coronavirus variant to affect bookings early next year, even as passengers return to the skies for holiday travel.

Have your holiday plans changed due to the Omicron variant? Share how the surge in Covid cases is affecting you at firstft@ft.com. Thanks for reading FirstFT Asia. Here’s the rest of today’s news — Emily

1. US blacklists Chinese biotech groups over repression of Uyghurs The US is placing China’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences and 11 institutes involved in biotechnology on an export blacklist for allegedly helping Beijing engage in the repression and surveillance of Uyghurs.

2. Central banks battle inflation Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey insisted the central bank had no choice but to raise interest rates owing to the risk of inflation staying persistently too high. The European Central Bank will scale back its crisis bond-buying and the Bank of Mexico has raised interest rates more than analysts had expected as it faces its highest inflation in two decades.

  • Go deeper: The Federal Reserve’s shift away from the ultra-loose monetary policy despite a worrying wave of new coronavirus cases underscores the immense pressure piling up on the central bank to do more to tame inflation.

3. Vietnam’s widening crackdown on dissent A Vietnamese court yesterday jailed a human-rights activist for 10 years, the fourth dissident to have been given a stiff prison sentence in three days in what campaigners said was an intensifying crackdown by communist authorities on peaceful dissent.

4. Turkey raises minimum wage by 50% President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a 50 per cent rise in the country’s minimum wage in an effort to protect the Turkish people from soaring inflation just hours after the country’s central bank cut interest rates for the fourth consecutive month.

5. Chinese creditors sue Evergrande for claims totalling $13bn Chinese creditors have sued China Evergrande for more than $13bn in allegedly overdue payments, as domestic companies owed money by the developer race against offshore bondholders to secure repayment.

Coronavirus digest

The days ahead

Japan monetary policy decision Ahead of the Bank of Japan’s interest rate decision, Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said while consumer inflation may approach 2 per cent, the central bank would maintain its ultra-loose monetary policy. (Reuters)

Anniversary of self-immolation of Tunisia’s Bouazizi The nation marks the 11th anniversary of the event that started the Arab Spring uprisings — the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi in protest at the confiscation by police of his vegetable cart.

UK retail figures Tighter restrictions owing to increasing Covid cases will inevitably hit certain sectors such as retail and transport, though it could be a boon for some retailers, such as online grocery delivery companies.

Chile’s presidential run-off election The South American nation of 19m faces a bitterly fought presidential run-off election on Sunday between two men with diametrically opposed views. At stake is not only the immediate future of Chile, but also the verdict on four decades of free-market economic policies.

Line chart of Annual % change in GDP showing Chile's economy has outperformed the rest of Latin America

What else we’re reading, watching and listening to

Taiwan opposition clings on for political relevance The KMT continues to embrace the idea that Taiwan and the mainland both belong to one China. That belief is increasingly out of step with public opinion as an overwhelming majority of Taiwanese reject unification with China, putting the party’s support into a tailspin.

A trip into the metaverse with Nick Clegg Instead of a meeting in Europe, the Facebook defender-in-chief offers to speak . . . in the metaverse, the immersive digital world hyped as a successor to the internet. So Henry Mance donned a bulky virtual headset, signed away his data and logged in to a simulated meeting room. Watch their conversation here.

Beware the property trap ensnaring young buyers Soaring demand for property during the pandemic means that annual house price inflation is 10.2 per cent. This makes homeowners feel considerably richer — on paper at least. But it has the opposite effect on first-time buyers, who are finding it increasingly hard to get the numbers to stack up.

‘A chef of incomprehensible intensity’ Behind King’s Cross is a tiny, four-seater hole-in-the-wall that bills itself as a Curry Laboratory. Hiden is chef Hideaki Yoshiyama’s extended investigation into karē raisu, Japanese curry and rice. And it is superb, writes FT’s Tim Hayward.

The underside of globalisation On this episode of the Rachman Review podcast, Gideon talks to Mark Leonard, director of the European Council on Foreign Relations, about the ways in which global powers try to exert influence over others in an interconnected world. Mark Leonard is author of The Age of Unpeace: How Connectivity Causes Conflict.

Fashion

This has been a terrible year for style, writes Unhedged author and style columnist Robert Armstrong. A miserable follow-up to an execrable 2020, he adds. To get the 2022 “fightback” under way, he offers a list of nine style resolutions.

Looking great in 1958: Ugo Tognazzi, Caprice Chantal, Anthony Steel and Anita Ekberg dine at Saint-Vincent Casino, Piedmont © Publifoto Milano/AFP via Getty Images

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