France considering extra restrictions on UK travellers over ‘Indian variant’ fears

France's foreign minister has confirmed that the government is considering imposing extra restrictions on travel because of fears of the 'Indian variant' which has seen a surge of cases in the UK.

France considering extra restrictions on UK travellers over 'Indian variant' fears
French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian confirmed that extra restrictions are being discussed. Photo: Paul Faith/AFP

Since mid-April, travel into France from India has been strictly limited due to concerns about the health situation and the emergence of another new variant of the virus.

However French officials are now becoming increasingly worried about the situation in the UK, which has seen several thousand cases of the ‘Indian variant’, particularly in hotspots in the north of the country. Travel into France from the UK currently requires a negative Covid test and a 7-day quarantine, but is allowed for any reason.

READ ALSO France’s quarantine rules for arrivals from high risk countries

Germany has put the UK on its risk index for this reason, which bans most travel from the UK apart from German citizens and people who are permanent residents in Germany.

Confirming that it is a concern, French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian seemed to rule out a complete ban.

He told French radio station RTL: “The arrival of the Indian variant poses a problem and we are vigilant on this point, in co-operation with the British authorities.”

However he added that the UK would not be put on the red list in France’s proposed traffic light system, a designation which bans virtually all travel.

READ ALSO Red, amber and green – France’s plans for a traffic light travel system 

He said: “If we do have to do it, it won’t be the red list. It will be an intermediate measure, but we are not ruling out make the health measures a little stricter.”

The French government on Wednesday has its regular meeting of the Defence Council, which considers the latest health situation and whether any extra restrictions are needed to keep the virus under control.

Around 80 percent of Covid cases in France are now the ‘UK variant’ of the virus, a new strain of which has been discovered in Bordeaux.

Although case numbers in France remain higher than many of the country’s neighbours, there has been a significant and sustained fall in daily case numbers, hospital occupancy and deaths in recent weeks, allowing the country to move to phase 2 of its reopening plan which included allowing café and bar terraces to reopen. 

The above graph by French journalist Nicolas Berrod shows the dramatic fall in the incidence rate (cases per 100,000 of the population) with the red line showing estimated cases around public holidays, when testing rates tend to fall.

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French PM says Covid tests for travellers from China ‘will continue’

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Tuesday that Covid-19 tests for travellers arriving from China would continue despite protests from Beijing.

French PM says Covid tests for travellers from China 'will continue'

“I think we’re performing our duty in asking for tests,” Borne told franceinfo radio when asked about China’s reaction, before adding: “We will continue to do it.”

“We’re doing it while respecting the rules of the World Health Organisation and we will continue to do it,” she added.

Since Sunday, travellers from China arriving in France must wear a mask and be prepared to submit to a test on arrival, which are being done at random.

From Thursday, all travellers will be required to present a negative PCR or antigen test undertaken less than 48 hours before their flight.

French authorities have described the testing regime as a means of tracking variants that might be spreading in China since the country lifted its strict Covid-19 restrictions.

“Our objective — and all the scientists agree on this point — is to follow the evolution of the virus and that’s what we’ve been doing since Sunday,” Borne said.

European nations are seeking to coordinate their responses, with France, Italy and Britain testing arrivals while other states such as Germany have no restrictions.