In a significant development Britain said, it is doing away with the planned easing of coronavirus rules for travelers from France, which was scheduled to take effect from Monday, because of the continued presence of the Beta variant of the COVID-19.
Those arriving from France will have to quarantine themselves either at home or in other accommodation for 5 to 10 days, even if they are fully vaccinated against COVID, said Britain’s health ministry.
This quarantine requirement will end on Monday for fully vaccinated travelers from countries in Britain’s ‘amber’ category of coronavirus risk, which includes most countries in Europe. Incidentally, around two thirds of British adults are fully vaccinated.
From Monday, most rules concerning coronavirus, including most legal obligations to wear masks will come to an end in England. Rules governing foreign travel will however remain subject to quarantine and testing requirements.
“With restrictions lifting on Monday across the country, we will do everything we can to ensure international travel is conducted as safely as possible, and protect our borders from the threat of variants,” said health minister Sajid Javid.
Before the coronavirus-induced COVID-19 pandemic, France was Britain’s second-most popular travel destination after Spain.
This development comes just a week before school holidays start in England, when millions would typically seek to cross the Channel.
The sudden change in rules drew an angry reaction from global airline body IATA, which said Britain’s travel restrictions and short-notice changes were out of line with those elsewhere in the world.
“The UK is entrenching itself as an outlier in its confused approach to travel. This, in turn, is destroying its own travel sector and the thousands of jobs that rely on it,” said Willie Walsh, director-general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Truck drivers will continue to be exempt from the quarantine requirement, including those transiting through France from elsewhere in Europe.
Currently Britain is reporting nearly 10 times as many COVID cases as France, due to the rapid spread of the Delta variant of COVID.
Quarantine for arrivals from France was “a precautionary measure … while we continue to assess the latest data and track prevalence of the Beta variant,” said Britain’s health ministry.