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Paris imposes Covid tests on unvaccinated arrivals from UK

Unvaccinated travellers from the UK arriving on the Eurostar will now have to take a Covid test on arrival in France, the Paris police chief has announced.

Paris imposes Covid tests on unvaccinated arrivals from UK
Unvaccinated arrivals into Paris will be required to take an extra Covid test. Photo: Eric Piermont/AFP

The Paris Préfecture de Police announced that “in accordance with government instructions, police have put in place, from Monday November 1st, a system of Covid testing for unvaccinated arrivals from the UK at Gare du Nord.”

The UK is on France’s orange list, which means that travel for unvaccinated people is already strictly limited – only those who have French citizenship, are permanent residents in France or are travelling for an essential reason are allowed in to France.

Vaccinated people can travel from the UK to France for any reason.

Unvaccinated arrivals who fit the travel criteria must also present a negative Covid test before boarding transport to France, but following the police announcement travellers on the Eurostar must also take a test on arrival at Gare du Nord. The Local has asked whether this rule is likely to be extended to arrivals from the UK by plane, ferry or car.

France’s travel rules had previously contained provision for tests on arrival for unvaccinated travellers, but this has not been systematically applied until now.

The police statement added: “Faced with the recent resurgence of the epidemic in the UK, in particular the Delta variant AY.4.2, the police, in accordance with government instructions, have put in place from Monday, November 1st a testing system specific to Gare du Nord.”

Passengers are already required to show proof of vaccination upon boarding the Eurostar in London, for fully vaccinated passengers nothing changes, but unvaccinated travellers will now be directed upon arrival in Paris to a dedicated testing centre set up within the station.

Those who test positive will be subject to a 10-day quarantine.

The police statement did not mention payment for the tests, but visitors and unvaccinated residents in France usually have to pay for travel tests or ‘convenience’ tests.

The price of tests are capped by the government at €44 for a PCR test and €22 for an antigen test. Arrival testing is usually antigen tests so that travellers can receive their results on the spot.

The UK has for several weeks been reporting a huge surge in Covid cases, with a daily average of around 45,000 cases. France’s cases are much lower at around 5,000 per day, but have seen an increase in recent days.

For full details on the travel rules between France and the UK, click HERE.

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TRAVEL NEWS

How Brexit and Covid have derailed Eurostar services between France and UK

The French boss of Eurostar has laid out how the combination of the pandemic, Brexit and ongoing uncertainty over new EU travel rules have left the company in a very precarious position.

How Brexit and Covid have derailed Eurostar services between France and UK

The Eurostar CEO Jacques Damas has laid out the company’s woes in a long letter to British MPs, stating that as things stand “Eurostar cannot currently pursue a strategy of volume and growth. We are having to focus on our core routes . . . and to charge higher prices to customers”.

He said that two things have significantly damaged the company – the pandemic (worsened by the fact that the company received no state aid from the UK government) and Brexit which has made travel between France and the UK considerably more complicated with more checks required at stations.

Damas said that peak capacity at both London St Pancras and Paris Gare du Nord is 30 percent less than it was pre-Brexit, because of the increased infrastructure needed to check and stamp the passports of travellers.

He said: “Even with all booths manned, St Pancras can only process a maximum of 1,500 passengers per hour, against 2,200 in 2019.

“It is only the fact that Eurostar has capacity-limited trains and significantly reduced its timetable from 2019 levels, that we are not seeing daily queues in the centre of London similar to those experienced in the Channel ports.

“This situation has obvious commercial consequences and is not sustainable in the mid to long-term.”

He added that the increased passport checks and stamping needed since Brexit adds at least 15 seconds to each passenger’s processing time, and that automated passport gates are less efficient.

The other factor that has hit the company hard was the pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions, leading to revenues being cut by 95 percent for 15 months.

The London-based company struggled to access government financial aid due to its ownership structure, with both the British and French governments reluctant to assume sole responsibility for bailing out the company.

It began as a joint venture between the British and French governments, but then the British sold off its share to private investors.

Damas said: “Contrary to the £7 billion in state aid given to our airline competitors, Eurostar did not receive any state-backed loans”. 

By May 2021 the company was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, and was eventually bailed out to the tune of €290 million in loans and shareholder-guaranteed loans and equity – although this saved the company it has now left it with huge debts to be repaid.

The CEO’s letter was responding to questions from British MPs on the Transport Select Committee who wanted to know when trains would again stop at Ashford station – which has been closed since March 2020. Damas said there was no immediate prospect of that, or of reinstating the route to Disneyland Paris, while the company grapples with these financial problems.

He added that there is also “considerable uncertainty” around the new EU travel systems known as the EES and ETIAS, which are due to come into effect in 2023 and which will require extra checking of passports at the EU’s external borders – such as the UK/France border. 

READ ALSO Fears of ‘massive travel disruption’ in 2023

Many Eurostar passengers have commented recently on increased ticket prices, and it seems that there is little immediate prospect of prices going back down to 2019 levels. 

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