Exemptions, fines and transit: How the UK and France’s quarantine rules work

The UK is now imposing a quarantine on all arrivals from France and the French government says it will reciprocate. So what do we know about how these restrictions will work?

Exemptions, fines and transit: How the UK and France's quarantine rules work
Photo: AFP

What's happening in the UK?

From 4am on Saturday, August 15th, the UK will impose a 14-day quarantine on any arrivals from France.

READ ALSO: BREAKING UK imposes quarantine on travellers from France

The UK has in fact since June had a blanket quarantine requirement in place for all countries, but had in recent weeks brought in exemptions – which it dubbed 'travel corridors' – to countries including France.

France's exemption has now been removed so it goes back to the standard quarantine regulations.

These rules are that anyone arriving in the UK from France must self-isolate for 14 days or face a £1,000 (€1,105) fine. This applies to all arrivals, whether by air, sea or tunnel and to all nationalities.

You can self-isolate at an address of your choice and you can travel from your arrival point to the address where you intend to self-isolate.

The rules apply to both UK nationals and other nationalities, although there are some groups who are exempt.

They include:

  • Lorry drivers and other delivery staff and transport staff eg Eurostar drivers
  • Foreign officials travelling for work, such as the French police officers who work in British ports and the UK officials who work on the French side
  • Government contractors travelling to the UK for essential work
  • People who travel between the UK and France for work at least once a week
  • Diplomats or representatives of international organisations
  • Airline passengers on a connecting flight through the UK
  • Anyone travelling from Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man
  • Seasonal agricultural workers  
  • Workers with specialist technical skills to ensure vital production, movement or storage of goods or vital utilities work
  • Nuclear personnel working on a licenced nuclear site
  • People arriving for pre-arranged medical treatment in the UK
  • People engaged in urgent or essential work for the BBC

For the full list of exemptions, and the supporting documents required, click here.

You will also need to complete the contact locator form before you board transport to the UK, giving details of your contacts and the address where you will stay in the UK. You can find the form here. It's quite long, so it's probably best not to leave that until you are on the train platform or ferry dock to start filling it in.

The UK government has advised against all but essential travel to France, an important point as this invalidates most travel insurance policies.

And what about France?

France says it will 'reciprocate' the measures, but has provided little detail so far.

French transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said on Thursday that he had spoken to Shapps and France would 'harmonise' restrictions so they are the same on both sides of the Channel.

During the last period of UK quarantine for French arrivals, the French government again said it would impose reciprocal measures.

However in this case the French quarantine was voluntary and there was no enforcement and no fines in place.

When asked about the French measures on Friday, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said: “France will rapidly put in place reciprocal measures, the practicalities of which are being studied.”

France does not currently have compulsory quarantine measures in place, instead it has compulsory testing for people arriving from 16 'high-risk' countries.

Does this mean you cannot go to the UK for less than 14 days?

This is the big question for people who live in France and had been planning a trip to the UK. This UK guidelines say that you must self isolate for the 'first 14 days' of your stay in the UK.

However advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth office indicates that you can enter the UK for a shorter trip, but you would have to self-isolate for the entirety of your stay.

The British Embassy in Paris says in its Q&A on travel rules: “If you are returning to the UK from or through France, you will need to self-isolate while you are in the UK. However, you are able to return to France or to travel onwards within the 14-day period.

“You should check to see if there are any restrictions on travel from the UK or France in your country of onward destination.”

How long will the quarantine last?

We don't know. The UK generally reviews its border policies every two weeks but really everything depends on the numbers.

The UK appears to have based its decision on the number of new cases being reported in France, although France's death rate remains consistently lower than the UK's.

However the number of new cases in France is climbing rapidly and French health authorities are concerned.

READ ALSO: 'Clearly worsening' – France records highest number of new Covid-19 cases since May

Across Europe there is a general trend of rising case numbers as lockdown measures are loosened and people go on holiday. The rising rates are also partially explained by the fact that many European countries have stepped up their testing programmes.

Experts have long warned of a possible 'second wave' of cases in the autumn.

What if I have a trip booked?

Despite the advice from the UK government not to travel to France, you are not automatically entitled to a refund of a pre-booked trip – find out more here: Quarantine, cancellation and insurance – what are your rights?

What if I'm just passing through France?

The rule applies to anyone who has arrived into the UK from France, unless you were travelling through the country and only had a transit stop.

This is defined as a stop where no new people got on and no-one on the transport mixed with people outside. If you are driving you don't need to self-isolate if no new people got into the vehicle in France and none of the passengers got out and mixed with other people, for example at a motorway service station.

The British Embassy in Paris has a fuller explanation of the transit stop rule here.

Do you have a question? Email us at [email protected] and we will do our best to answer it

Member comments

  1. Britain should hold its head in shame as the people coming from the UK have been likely to be caring the infection to their foreign holiday spots more than the other way round. UK still outstrips the rest of Europe in numbers of infection per day, Yet Europe allowed UK visitors to come unrestricted.

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Revealed: What will you receive from France’s €65bn cost-of-living aid package?

The French parliament has finally passed a massive €65 billion package of measures aimed at helping French residents with the spiralling cost of living. Here's a rundown of the help on offer, who it's available to and when it comes into effect.

Revealed: What will you receive from France's €65bn cost-of-living aid package?

After three weeks of sometimes heated debate, France’s parliament has adopted its multi-part purchasing power package to help mitigate rising cost of living and inflation.

In total, parliament approved a budget of nearly €65 billion for the whole package. 

It includes a raft of measures including price shields, tax rebates and grants. Here’s what is included and who will benefit.

Electricity and gas The government has voted to extend the tariff shield on gas and electricity prices until the end of the year: this means that gas prices will continue to remain frozen and that price hikes for electricity prices will be capped at four percent. 

For who: This applies to everyone who has a gas or electricity account in France.

When: The price freeze is already in effect and will continue until at least December 31st.

Fuel subsidy – The government’s fuel rebate (on petrol/gasoline and diesel) will be increased from €0.18 per litre to €0.30 in September and October, and then in November and December it will fall to €0.10. 

For who: All drivers (including tourists) – this is applied automatically at all fuel stations in France

When: The €0.18 per litre rebate is already in place and remains until August 31st, and rises to €0.30 on September 1st.

Pensions – The index point for pensions will be raised by four percent.

Who: This covers anyone who receives a French pension – roughly 14 million people – it does not affect anyone who gets a pension from another country.

When: From September 9th. 

Abolishing the TV licence fee – The annual TV licence raised €3.7 billion a year for public broadcasting, with the majority having gone toward France Télévisions, but has now been scrapped. It was €138 per household. 

For who: Any household with a television. This equates to about 23 million households in France who will no longer have to pay this yearly tax.

When: The was due to be levied on November 15th, but this year no bills will be sent out.

Tripling the Macron bonus – The maximum annual bonus – which is exempt from income and social security taxes – will be tripled.

It is a one time, tax-free payout that can be given to workers by their employers – if they chose to. Companies will now be able to pay up to €3,000 to their employees (and up to €6,000 for those with a profit-sharing scheme).

Who: This pertains to salariés (employees) whose businesses choose to offer this bonus.

When: The bonus can be paid between August 1st and December 31st.

Rent cap – Rent increases will be limited to 3.5 percent per year for existing tenants. Some cities already have in place their own rent control schemes, but the 3.5 percent cap is nationwide.

Who – This affects anyone who already has a tenancy agreement for a property in France (and also affects all landlords who are banned from making big rent hikes).

When – The 3.5 percent cap concerns annual rent increases that fall between July 2022 and June 2023.

Housing allowance – Those who benefit from personalised assistance for housing (APL) will see that increased by 3.5 percent.

Who: This pertains to those who qualify for governmental financial assistance with rent. Typically, this means low-income households. If you are already on APL – around 3.5 million people – the increase will be automatic, if you think you might qualify, apply through your local CAF.

When: The increase comes in your next payment, with the increased rate backdated to July 1st 2022.

Social benefits – The RSA top-up benefit will be increased by four percent (local authorities, who deal with RSA, will receive €600 million to help them finance and allocate this increase). Additionally, those who benefit from the ‘prime d’activité‘ (activity bonus) will see that value raised by four percent as well.

Who: Unemployed people below the age of 25 can qualify for RSA – this pertains to about 1.9 million people in France. The activity bonus is available to low-income workers – about 4.3 million people.

When: Catch-up payments will be in place from August 18th to September 5th. On September 5th, the updated payment will begin to be paid out.

Student grants – An increase of 4 percent for student grants (bourses) for higher education

Who: Students under the age of 28 who qualify for financial assistance in the form of grants. These students must qualify as ‘financially precarious’ for the school year of 2022-2023.

When: September 2022

Back-to-school grants – Families who meet certain income requirements are eligible for an allowance to help cover back-to-school costs – that grant will increase by four percent this year. There will also be an extra €100 subsidy for eligible families (with an additional €50 per child) paid “to those who need it most” according to Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire in an interview with RTL. 

Who: Low-income families with children. You can test your family’s eligibility on the website This aid will impact 10.8 million households.

When: The one time payment will be paid at the start of the school-year in September.

The option to convert overtime days into extra cash – This is encompassed in two measures: increasing the ceiling of tax exempt overtime hours to €7,500 and opening the possibility for companies to buy back RTT days from their employees.

Eligible employees covered by the 35-hour week agreement accrue time in lieu if they work overtime, known as RTT days. Currently this time is taken as extra vacation days, but now employees will have the option to forgo the time off and instead be paid extra.

Who: For the buying back of RTT days, this applies to employees (salariés) who have an RTT agreement with their company.

For the increased cap on non-taxed overtime work, this applies to a range of employees, such as those who have 35-hour per week contracts and have their employer request that they work overtime or those who work beyond their part-time contract amount. You can learn more about whether you have the ability to declare overtime hours HERE

When: The RTT days buyout will run from between January 1st, 2022 to December 31st, 2025. For employees eligible for tax-free overtime compensation, the ceiling of €7,500 will only be in place for the year 2022.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why is France’s 35-hour week such a sacred cow?

Pay rise for public sector workers – public sector pay will get a four percent rise in the index.

Who: Anyone employed in France as a fonctionnaire (eg civil servants, teachers, librarians).

When: This will be retroactive to July 1st

Assistance for some self-employed workers – A reduction in health and maternity insurance contributions will be introduced for low-earning self-employed workers. “Microentrepreneurs” will also benefit from a reduction in their flat-rate contributions.

Who: Self-employed workers whose monthly income does not exceed 1.6 times the minimum wage and who are registered as ‘microentrepeneurs’

When: TBC

The biometric carte vitale –  The Senate introduced this into the purchasing power package, but it is not a benefit. It will involve the implementation of a biometric carte vitale health card to “fight against social fraud” by adding an electronic chip with biometric data on it to health insurance cards. You can read more HERE.

Who: Everyone who is registered in the French health system and has a carte vitale (about 60 million people)

When: Lawmakers will begin plans to implement the plans in Autumn 2022, but it’s not clearly exactly what form the rollout will take.

How much will these measures impact inflation?

Some measures will likely be more effective than others. For instance, the extension of the tariff shield and increase of the fuel rebate in the early fall is largely to thank for France’s inflation level being two points lower than the European average, according to INSEE.

On the other hand, the tripling of the ceiling for the (optional) Macron bonus will likely not make a large difference. This is because it will likely not be widely taken advantage of, as last year only 4 million French people received the optional bonus, with the approximate average of the bonus having been only €500.

The pension changes will impact about 14.8 million people in France. However, according to economist Christopher Dembik, the revalorsation values are based on actual inflation and not on inflation expectations. “These revaluation measures will be too weak by the time they will be implemented,” Dembik said to French daily Le Parisien.