COVID: Omicron variant prompts France to drastically restrict travel to and from UK

France will sharply tighten entry requirements for people traveling to and from the UK in order to limit the spread of the Omicron variant, the government said on Thursday.

The Prime Minister’s office in Matignon confirmed that from Friday midnight until Saturday, travelers will have to give “compelling reasons” to visit the UK and return to France, regardless of their vaccination status.

A government statement cites the UK government’s admission that an Omicron “tidal wave” is expected to strike the country as the rationale for this move.

Travel for tourism and business will not be permitted, the statement said. However, “these compelling reasons will nevertheless not apply to French citizens as well as to their spouses and children who will still be able to come to France”, he explains.

An attached list of what constitutes “compelling reasons” to travel in both directions also includes, for the United Kingdom, a “foreign citizen returning to his country”.

The new measures also mean that COVID-19 tests are mandatory to enter France within the previous 24 hours, instead of the current 48 hours. They apply to all arrivals vaccinated or not.

Matignon has confirmed that the tests can be either PCR or lateral flow – although home tests are not valid – and the proof must be in the form of a recognized certificate.

People arriving in France from the United Kingdom will also have to self-isolate, and register their address online in advance, via an application that will generate an isolation order from the prefecture. The quarantine can be lifted after 48 hours once a negative COVID-19 test is provided.

The French government is calling on travelers who had planned to visit the UK to delay their trip.

The new measures will be “more drastic” than those currently in existence, government spokesman Gabriel Attal admitted in an interview with BFMTV and RMC earlier Thursday.

He said the quarantine for visitors from the UK would be subject to “checks by the security forces”.

The new conditions for entering France from the United Kingdom are now published in English by the French Consulate in London.

According to the French government list, people considered to have ‘compelling reasons’ for going to the UK include ‘a foreign citizen returning to his country’, visits after the death of a close family member, or if such a person is in danger of death.

Those allowed to return to France include French and EU nationals and their families, as well as Brits “benefiting from the Brexit deal” – i.e. UK residents registered in the EU – as well as nationals of other countries residing in the EU.

Other exemptions from the travel ban include officials traveling on business, police, customs officers and Channel Tunnel workers, health workers and enrolled students, and transport workers, including including truck drivers transporting goods. Air passengers changing planes in France can enter airport transit zones for up to 24 hours.

The announcement comes the next day the United Kingdom recorded 78,610 daily cases of COVID-19 – the highest number since the start of the pandemic as the new, highly transmissible variant of Omicron spreads.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last Sunday that an Omicron “tidal wave” is expected to strike the country. In some areas, the number of Omicron cases is doubling every other day, he added on Wednesday.

To date, France has detected 240 cases of Omicron on its territory. The new restrictions on the UK were designed to “tighten the net” to reduce the number of cases of the variant entering the country and slow its spread, said Gabriel Attal.