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Transport swamped as thousands of Brits rush to French ports to try and beat quarantine

People travelling to the UK from France have been warned only to turn up if they have a valid ticket as thousands of desperate Brits try to get home ahead of the quarantine.

Transport swamped as thousands of Brits rush to French ports to try and beat quarantine
Passengers are warned to only turn up if they have a valid ticket for today. Photo: AFP

The British government announced on Twitter late on Thursday night that it would be imposing a quarantine on all arrivals from France, starting at 4am on Saturday.

READ ALSO Exemptions and fines – what we know about the British and French quarantine rules

The announcement prompted a rush of holidaying Brits, desperate to get home before the new quarantine measures kicked in.

British workers are not entitled to sick pay if they are quarantining, so people unable to work from home face the prospect of not being able to work for a fortnight under the quarantine rule.

Now transport operators have warned people not to turn up at French ports, stations or airports unless they have a valid ticket for travel on Friday, as services are extremely busy.

Eurostar tweeted: “Our trains to the UK are very busy today. To ensure we're able to help you get home if you need to, please only come to the station if you have a valid ticket for travel today.”

While P&O Ferries added that their service from France and the Netherlands – which is also the subject of a UK quarantine from 4am on Saturday – are also extremely busy.

 

Thousands of people had also headed to Calais, hoping to get the Channel Tunnel back, but the tunnel operator also advised that all travellers – including people with a FlexiPlus ticket who can normally turn up without a reserved crossing – must alter their ticket time online before showing up at the terminal.

 

Claudia, a 42-year-old German who lives in London but is currently on holiday in southwest France, called it an “absolute nightmare”.

“Even if we wanted to we could not come back in time. Eurotunnel is sold out for any slot after midday,” she told AFP.

And even those who did manage to make it back faced hefty charges for last-minute changes to their travel plans.

French student Antoine, 23, had to rush back to Bristol, where he is at university, cutting short his summer holidays.

“I'm a waiter in a small café near college, I can't afford to spend 14 days in the house,” he told AFP at London's St Pancras railway station after getting off a Eurostar train.

“I was supposed to come back on Monday morning, but as soon as I heard the news I rushed to the Eurostar app to change my ticket – €125 more than my original ticket.”

Although the official response from the French government said only that it “regretted” the UK's decision – which it intends to reciprocate – other French politicians were not so restrained.

Alexandre Holroyd, the French MP who represents French citizens living in the UK, called the quarantine “another incomprehensible and unilateral decision by Boris Johnson that has thousands of families on both sides of the Channel in anguish”.

While Nathalie Loiseau, MEP and France's former Europe Minister, called it “a decision with no scientific basis which will further complicate relations between the French and British citizens, already shaken by the Brexit . . . British exceptionalism is decidedly misguided.”

Member comments

  1. Good. All the idiots streaming out of my country who haven’t the brains to do without a holiday for at least one year out of their mundane lives. It’s the business people that get caught up in this mayhem I feel sorry for.

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COVID-19

Where in France do you still need a face mask?

In France, masks will no longer be required on indoor transport as of Monday, May 16th. Here are rules and recommendations that are still in place:

Where in France do you still need a face mask?

Members of the public in France have been asked to wear face masks for the most part of two years, at times even outside in the street.

Since March 14th, 2022, the facial coverings have no longer been mandatory in most establishments such as shops, and as of Monday, May 16th, it will no longer be mandatory on indoor public transport. 

As of May 16th, you will therefore no longer be required to wear a mask in the following transports:

  • Buses and coaches
  • Subways and streetcars
  • RER and TER
  • TGV and interregional lines
  • Taxis

Regarding airplanes whether or not you must wear a mask is a bit more complicated.

On Wednesday, May 11th, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announced that from May 16th onward it would no longer be required to wear a mask in airports and on board aircraft in the European Union. However, Germany has stated that it does not have the intention of lifting its requirement of wearing a mask on its airlines – this would include the Lufthansa airline. Thus, it will be necessary for passengers to still very to rules each airline has in place, which could be the case when travelling to a country that still has indoor mask requirements in place.

EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky specified that vulnerable people should continue to wear masks, and that “a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, to reassure those seated nearby.”

Masks still obligatory in medical settings

However, it will still be mandatory for caregivers, patients and visitors in health care facilities, specifically including hospitals, pharmacies, medical laboratories, retirement homes, and establishments for the disabled. 

For people who are vulnerable either due to their age or their status as immunocompromised, wearing a mask will continue to be recommended, though not required, particularly for enclosed spaces and in large gatherings.

Masks are also still recommended for people who test positive, people who might have come in contact with Covid-19, symptomatic people and healthcare professionals.

Will masks come back?

It is possible. French Health Minister Olivier Véran does not exclude the return of mandatory mask-wearing, should the health situation require it.

What are the other Covid-19 restrictions that remain in place?

The primary restriction that has not changed is the French government’s regulation for testing positive: If you are unvaccinated and test positive, isolation is still required for 10 days, if you are vaccinated, this requirement is seven days. Isolation can be reduced from 10 to 7 days or from 7 to 5 days if a negative covid test is performed, and symptoms are no longer present.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What Covid restrictions remain in place in France?

The French Health Ministry still recommends following sanitary measures such as: wearing a mask in places where it is still mandatory, hand washing, regular ventilation of rooms, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, and using a single-use handkerchief (tissue).

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