REMINDER: What you should know before booking a trip to France from the UK

Holiday bookings in the UK surged after the British government announced its lockdown exit plan on Monday -but travellers planning a trip to France should take into account the current restrictions first.

REMINDER: What you should know before booking a trip to France from the UK
Rules on entry into France from the UK are the strictest they have ever been since the pandemic began. Photo: AFP

Airlines including Jet2 have reported a sharp rise in bookings, after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday said that international trips could potentially restart from May 17th.

The tour operator and airline reported a 1,000 percent increase in bookings in the 24 hours following the prime minister’s announcement.

“The government’s announcement is the news [holidaymakers] have been longing for, and the continued surge in bookings shows how ready our customers are to get away to the sunshine on a real package holiday,” Jet2 chief executive, Steve Heapy, told the BBC.

The head of Channel Tunnel operator Getlink also said they had seen a surge in bookings after Johnson’s announcement.

But anyone thinking of travelling for any reason – holidays, second home visits or trips to see family and friends – needs to bear in mind that France currently has very strict limits on travel from the UK, which still have no clear end in sight.

There is no guarantee that France’s borders will open by May 17th, so anyone booking a trip would be taking a gamble.

EXPLAINED: Who can travel after France closed its non-EU borders?

Border police will be checking all arrivals. Photo: Martin Borman/AFP

Since January 31st, rules on entry into France from the UK are the strictest they have ever been since the pandemic began.

France’s non-EU borders have been closed and rules on European travel have been tightened, in an attempt to avoid a third nationwide lockdown and prevent Covid-19 variants, including the one in the UK, from spreading within its borders.

France’s borders are therefore closed to anyone coming in from outside the EU or the Schengen zone, including the UK. 

The only exceptions to the travel ban are people with motif imperiéux (compelling reasons) for travel, which include vital work and the death of a close family member.

A PCR test is required to travel and once in France, people are also required to self-isolate for seven days, and then take a second test.

The French government has not said when these restrictions will be lifted, but it looks unlikely for a while with a new increase in coronavirus cases attributed largely to new variants. It’s also possible that any decisions on the EU’s external border will be taken at EU level, as France has several times called for a co-odinated pan-European approach to travel rules.

France has also seen a spike in cases in the past week in some areas including Nice and Dunkirk, leading to new restrictions including regional lockdowns.

France still has strict coronavirus rules in place throughout the country, including a 6pm-6am curfew and mandatory wearing of masks in public.

Restaurants, bars, cinemas and theatres all over the country have been closed since the end of October.

READ ALSO: Will summer holidays in France be possible this year?

As the vaccine roll out continues, many hope that the fully-vaccinated will be given permission to travel, and some European countries are pushing for a vaccine passport.

France is currently running a public consultation on the issue of vaccine passports, which has proved controversial.

While the British government’s plan out of lockdown has provided some hope for summer travel, there are still questions about when and how travel will be able to resume, and there are no guarantees that this will happen by mid-May.

Booking holidays now therefore comes at a risk, since most types of travel insurance will not cover trips that cannot take place due to border restrictions.

Last summer consumers found themselves fighting for refunds after new quarantine rules were announced for UK travellers returning from France.

Keep up with all the latest travel regulations in our Travelling to France section HERE.

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New Covid wave in autumn ‘virtually certain’ say French experts

The head of the government's new health advisory body says that a surge of Covid cases when the French head back to work after the summer break is virtually certain.

New Covid wave in autumn 'virtually certain' say French experts

Immunologist Brigitte Autran, president of new government health advisory body the Comité de veille et d’anticipation des risques sanitaires (Committee to monitor and anticipate health risks) which has replaced the Conseil scientifique, told Le Parisien that “the Covid epidemic is not behind us” and said that the French would have to get used to “living with” the virus.

The Covidtracker website currently shows that the virus is in decline across France, with the R-rate currently at 0.7 – any figure lower than one indicates that the number of infections is falling.

Autran, whose appointment as head of the new body was confirmed on Wednesday, said that the most likely scenario was for a “new epidemic peak in the autumn”, when people return to work after the summer holidays.

“Will it be due to a new variant or the return of cold weather?” she said. “We are not soothsayers, but it is almost certain that there will be a wave.”

“Today, we must go towards living with it,” she added, reintroducing the French to an expression previously used by President Emmanuel Macron and several ministers.

“This does not mean accepting the deaths or the severity of the disease,” she went on, pointing to the fact that health authorities in France still have “levers to activate” to fight the virus. 

Despite the fact that nearly 80 percent (79.6 percent) of people over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated against the virus, she said that, “unfortunately there are still too many people who have not been vaccinated or revaccinated.”

And she said the new body would work with the government to improve the public’s access to drugs, such as Paxlovid, and vaccines.

Vaccination is still open to anyone who has not yet had their shots, while a second booster shot is on offer to certain groups including over 60s, pregnant women, those with health conditions or people who are in close contact with vulnerable people.

EXPLAINED Who qualifies for a second Covid vaccine booster shot in France?

The French government in August voted to end to State of Emergency that allowed it to impose measures like travel bans and lockdowns, although further restrictions could be put in place if cases rise again and parliament agrees.