France eases ban on travellers from the UK

France has lifted most of its restrictions on vaccinated travellers from the UK, which will pave the way for tourists to return starting on Friday.

The French prime minister’s office said strict curbs on travel introduced in mid-December were no longer needed since their aim had been to slow the spread of the more transmissible Omicron variant — at the time more prevalent in the UK than France but now dominant in both.

“The general spread of this variant in both countries today led the government to make these adjustments,” it said.

All travellers coming from the UK will still be required to show a negative Covid-19 test that is less than 24 hours old.

But vaccinated people will be able to enter France for any reason without registering or quarantining. Unvaccinated people must have an essential reason for their trip, register their location with authorities and isolate themselves for 10 days.

As in many countries globally, the Omicron variant, which is extremely contagious but often causes less severe illness, has pushed infections to record levels in the UK and France in recent weeks. Britain appears to have passed its peak in terms of new daily infections, while France has not yet even if its explosive rate of growth has slowed.

France on Wednesday reported about 280,000 new infections based on a seven-day moving average, more than five times the levels of only a month ago before the Omicron effect hit. Its case incidence stood at 420 cases per 100,000 people, while Britain’s was 235 per 100,000 people.

Hospitalisations have also been rising, but the government has bet that the health system will be able to withstand the pressure. Nearly 24,000 people are currently hospitalised with Covid-19 in France, up 13 per cent from a week ago.

The easing of travel restrictions with Britain will come as welcome news to France’s travel industry, especially the Alpine ski resorts that were hit hard by the loss of British tourists during the Christmas holidays.

Some 15 per cent of the skiers in French resorts come from the UK, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, minister for tourism and small business, told TV5 Monde.

“Hopefully this morning’s decision will allow the resorts to make up the [revenue] gap,” he said. The government has spent €38bn to support the tourism sector since the pandemic began two years ago.

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