UK to allow fully vaccinated travellers from Europe to skip quarantine… but not from France

The UK government has announced details of how fully vaccinated travellers from countries in Europe to the UK can skip the mandatory 10-day quarantine when arriving in England, but separate rules will still apply for France.

UK to allow fully vaccinated travellers from Europe to skip quarantine... but not from France
(Photo by Niklas HALLE'N / AFP)

Transport Minister Grant Shapps took to Twitter to announce the move, saying the UK government was “helping to reunite friends and families”. 

“We’re helping reunite people living in the US and European countries with their family and friends in the UK,” he said. For the moment the relaxation only applies to arrivals in England with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland set to announce their own decisions at a later time.

The relaxation does not affect travellers from France given that the UK recently ranked France as effectively “amber plus” – the only European country to be given the special rating.

“Separate rules will continue to apply for those arriving from France,” the government said.

The UK’s rules for France are in stark contrast with French rules for travellers arriving from the UK, who do not need to provide a negative test or to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated.

The UK government had previously relaxed the quarantine rules only for arrivals from amber-level countries who had been vaccinated under the British National Health System.

That caused much anger among Britons living abroad, who complained they were effectively being barred from seeing family at home.

After much speculation in recent days the UK government has finally moved to level the playing field.

Now from 4am on August 2nd any travellers from amber level countries – which includes the majority of European nations –  arriving in Britain who have been fully inoculated with a vaccine recognised by the European Medical Agency or Swiss vaccination programme (Pfizer, Astra Zeneca, Moderna or Johnson &Johnson) can now skip the mandatory 10 day quarantine.

“The UK Government has today (28 July) announced that passengers arriving from amber countries who have been fully vaccinated in Europe (EU Member States, European Free Trade Association countries (Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) and the European microstate countries of Andorra, Monaco and Vatican City) and the USA will not have to quarantine when entering England, as part of a range of new measures designed to continue to drive forward the reopening of international travel,” said a statement from London.

However travellers will still need to provide a negative test no more than 72 hours prior to travel and take a PCR test on the second day after arriving in the country. Passengers from all countries also cannot travel to the UK unless they have completed a Passenger Locator Form. 

One thing that wasn’t immediately clear from the government’s statement is whether the PCR test needed on day 2 after arrival needed to be booked in advance of travel as is currently the case.

The UK does accept lateral flow or antigen tests for pre-travel requirements.

The relaxation for the moment does not apply to travellers from France – whether returning British residents or people living in France – given that the UK ranked France as a so-called “amber plus” country.

That last-minute decision caused much anger and bafflement because the UK government said it was based on the spread of the Beta variant in France – which has in fact been falling and remains less than five percent of all cases.

The French Ambassador to London Catherine Colonna pointed out that the Beta variant, first detected in South Africa and is believed to be more resistant to the AstraZeneca vaccine is responsible for less than 2 percent of cases in “continental France” – meaning excluding its Indian Ocean islands where the Beta variant is more prevalent.

In recent days there has been speculation the British government will return France to normal amber level but not announcement has yet been made.

The move not to apply the new relaxation to France once again caused anger among Britons in France.

Member comments

  1. As an American living in France who hasn’t seen my daughter in the UK for a year, I’m just plain angry. I have even been vaccinated with the OXFORD AstraZeneca vaccine, and I still can’t travel into the UK without quarantining. Why single out France except for political retribution? As the article states, it is NOT for any health reason, at this point.

    1. I hope the British government will reverse this nonsensical policy, and that you will see your daughter soon.

      1. Thank you so much. I hope so, too. The rules in the UK during this pandemic have been quite inhumane. She lives alone and for much of this pandemic period, she was not allowed to socialize with anyone. Literally. She had to talk to them through her window while they were outside.

  2. The daft part about this that once again the British government haven’t thought this through, anyone travelling by sea/or channel tunnel have effectively come from France, be they German, Austrian, Belgium or any other EU country.

    So they will have to quarantine.

  3. Maybe the UK is trying to get France to show some of their famous reciprocity and remove the “essential need to travel” for those not fully vaccinated. My over 18 children had their first vaccination as soon as they could, but they can’t have their second until 8 weeks later and then they must wait 2 more weeks before they are “fully vaccinated”. This won’t be until late August. Meanwhile their European friends went home from their British schools, had a single vaccination, and were classed as “fully vaccinated” 21 days later. It is hard for this generation to see the British program as better than Europe’s. By keeping their restrictions in place, the French are now drawing attention to all this and probably making the UK a bit uncomfortable.

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France’s train operator adds 500,000 extra seats on trains this summer

In order to meet an expected record demand over the summer, French train operator SNCF has announced that it will out an extra 500,000 tickets on sale.

France's train operator adds 500,000 extra seats on trains this summer

SNCF says it is looking at a “record summer” for train travel, as tourists flock back to France after two years of stringent Covid regulations.

In order to cope with the influx of passengers, SNCF’s CEO, Jean-Pierre Farandou, announced on Thursday that the company would put 500,000 additional seats on sale. 

“We’re off to a record summer,” said Farandou. The train operator says they have already sold over eight million tickets for the key vacation months of July and August – a 10 percent increase from 2019. 

READ ALSO Everything you need to know about taking the train in France

“We are at capacity, so we will add trains. We will also create double configurations to allow two trains at a time,” explained Farandou. 

Farandou added that though trains might be full for the big vacation days, there are “still spaces” outside of these periods that are available.

The announcement comes as several airlines – namely Easyjet and Ryanair – have announced plans for strikes this summer. Long lines, staff shortages, and strikes at key airports have made travel by train more attractive than air journeys for many.

READ MORE: Budget airline passengers in Europe face travel headaches as more strikes called