Will France impose extra travel restrictions on UK travellers?

British cars queue for the ferry in France
British cars queue for the ferry in France. Photo: Fred Tanneau/AFP
As France announces a tightening of the rules for unvaccinated travellers from the UK, many readers have been asking whether we are likely to see more restrictions imposed on travel between France and the UK.

Here’s what we know about the travel situation.

What has changed?

From Monday, November 1st, France has imposed extra travel restrictions on unvaccinated arrivals from the UK into Paris’ Gare du Nord. Those travelling on the Eurostar who are not vaccinated will have to take an additional Covid test on arrival into the station – full details here.

What are the rules?

The rest of the travel rules remain the same, and the extra testing is at present confined only to arrivals via Eurostar.

The UK is on France’s orange list, which means travel is restricted for unvaccinated people.

Vaccinated – if you’re fully vaccinated you can travel to France for any reason (including tourism and family visits) and you only need to show proof of vaccination, a negative Covid test is not required. You also need to fill in a declaration stating that you are free from Covid symptoms.

Unvaccinated – if you are not vaccinated you can only travel to France if your journey is essential according to this list. It includes French nationals and those who have permanent residency in France but does not include second-home owners, family visits or tourism.

If your reason for travel fits the criteria, you need to present a negative Covid test taken within the previous 24 hours and – if arriving by Eurostar – take another test on arrival. You also need to fill in the declaration of being free of Covid symptoms.

Find the full list of rules HERE.

Is the UK a concern?

The UK is currently recording very high daily rates of Covid – around 45,000 new cases a day – although rates seem to have plateaued in recent days.

In France the rate is much lower – around 5,000 new cases a day – but has begun to rise. The French government is naturally concerned about this and is very keen to avoid a fifth wave of cases. 

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The government has already stated that current health rules such as the health pass are likely to remain in place in the weeks to come but has not so far detailed any extra measures that might be imposed.

Several European countries are reporting increases in their Covid cases as the cold weather draws in, as the below graph – expressed as cases per million people in the population – shows.

However the UK’s rates are the highest in western Europe.

Announcing the extra measures at Gare du Nord, the Paris police said the measures were being put in place: “Faced with the recent resurgence of the epidemic in the UK, in particular the Delta variant AY.4.2”.

The situation in the UK also seems to be worrying France’s tourism minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne. Speaking about regulations for French ski resorts this winter, he remarked that the British market is “very important for French skiing” but added “we can see that in Great Britain the incidence rate and the number of cases are very high, between 40,000 and 50,000 cases per day and in France we see a slight increase in the incidence rate.”

What next?

The extra testing requirement is imposed only on unvaccinated arrivals from the UK – but concerns both UK residents arriving in France and French residents and citizens returning after a trip to the UK.

Travel for the unvaccinated is already strictly limited, while the widespread use of the health passport in France to access venues including bars, cafés, long-distance trains and tourist sites means that a trip to France is impractical for those who are not vaccinated, even if they do qualify to travel.

France in effect closed its borders for large parts of 2020, but since the widespread rollout of Covid vaccines it has been keen to differentiate between vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers.

It could, however, impose extra testing or quarantine requirements on arrivals from the UK if the epidemic situation continues to deteriorate, although there has been no indication from the government that this is currently being considered.

As ever, it depends on case numbers on both sides of the Channel.

You can keep up to date with the latest by heading to our Travelling to France section, or following @TheLocalTravel on Twitter.

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