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TRAVEL NEWS

Will France impose extra travel restrictions on UK travellers?

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.

British cars queue for the ferry in France
British cars queue for the ferry in France. Photo: Fred Tanneau/AFP

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. 

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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STRIKES

Planes, trains and roads: France’s timetable for summer strikes

Unions representing railway workers, airline staff and truck divers have already called for strikes in France over the summer and it's likely that more will follow - here's your guide to the declared strike days and the services that will be affected.

Planes, trains and roads: France's timetable for summer strikes

The majority of the strikes are over pay, with unions saying that the soaring cost of living should mean pay increases for staff. So far there has been no call for a general strike, and each dispute is a separate matter between company bosses and the relevant workers’ representatives.

We will update this story throughout the summer.

Airlines

The air travel sector is the worst hit so far, with several different strikes called.

Airport – workers at Aéroports de Paris (which covers Paris Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports but not Beauvais) will walk out on Friday, July 1st in their second one-day strike. This covers airport staff including security and check-in staff and will primarily affect flights departing from Paris – on their previous strike day one quarter of flights were cancelled. Passengers should check with their airline before going to the airport.

Ryanair – Ryanair cabin crew all around Europe are involved in a dispute with the company and held strike days on Saturday, June 25th and Sunday, June 26th. In France this affected flights at Toulouse, Marseille, Bordeaux and Paris Beauvais airports, although only 16 flights were cancelled (compared to 75 in Spain). Ryanair staff have filed a strike notice for ‘unlimited action’ over the summer, but their industrial action looks set to be conducted as a series of one or two-day strikes, probably in co-ordination with colleagues around Europe.

Exact days are still to be confirmed, but French unions say they will likely target busy times such as the July 8th/9th/10th weekend when French schools are out for summer, as well as the holiday weekend around July 14th.

Easyjet – French Easyjet pilots have written an open letter to the company CEO denouncing the chaos that has already seen the budget airline cancel dozens of flights because of staff shortages. They have not, however, filed a strike notice.

Staff shortages – in addition to strike action, air travel around Europe has been hit hard by shortages of key staff, and many airports have seen long wait times to check in.

Railways

SNCF strike – workers on the French rail operator SNCF have called a national strike on Wednesday, July 6th. This will potentially affect the high-speed TGV, the Intercité and local TER trains in all parts of France. It will not affect city public transport systems like the Paris Metro. SNCF will publish a strike timetable showing which services will be running on the Tuesday evening before the strike. 

Paris public transport – workers on the Paris public transport systems are also involved in a separate dispute about changes to changes to working conditions, this series of one-day actions has so far affected mostly the suburban Transilien trains and the RER network, but not the Metro.

Roads

Truck drivers blockades – Unions including the CFDT called for drivers to stage a blockade of industrial areas, mostly in the greater Paris region, on Monday, June 27th. Drivers too are calling for wage increases in what is likely to be the first in a series of events – usually drivers protest by either blockading certain addresses such as business depots or staging opérations escargot – rolling roadblocks on major routes.

Service station strike – employees of French energy giant Total Energies are also in dispute over wages and staged a one-day strike in June. Employees of service stations run by Total Energies walked out, while others blockaded Total’s refineries so that deliveries of fuel could not get out. So far, there has been no notice filed of a second strike day. 

Others

So far, most of the industrial action has centred on transport, which is one of the sectors that has the most impact on the daily life of both French residents and visitors. However there are other sectors that are involved in disputes over pay and conditions, notably healthcare. Staff at several hospitals have already staged industrial action – although for healthcare workers a grève involves staging protests outside the hospital, rather than walking out.

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