France to close borders to non-EU citizens

Travel ban to be implemented from Sunday in a bid to suppress threat of Covid variants

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France is closing its borders to non European Union travellers from Sunday in an attempt to stop the spread of new variants of coronavirus. The ban won't apply to British hauliers, however.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced the measure late on Friday after an emergency government health security meeting at the presidential palace, where he said the new variants represented a “great risk”.

All those arriving from other EU countries will be required to produce a negative virus test, he said.

France will also close all large shopping centres from Sunday and limit travel to and from its overseas territories.

UK Transport Minister Grant Shapps moved quickly to reassure British hauliers that the ban would not affect them, tweeting that "trade will continue to flow smoothly".

Mr Castex also ordered bolstered police checks to prevent secret parties, breaches of France's curfew – which lasts 12 hours a day – and the reopening of restaurants in defiance of a closure order in place since October.

Virus infections, hospital admissions and deaths have been rising steadily but not sharply in recent weeks. Many doctors have been calling for a new nationwide shutdown, similar to those imposed in several other European countries.

Mr Castex said the measures are an attempt to avoid the economic cost of a third lockdown.

Currently, more than 60 per cent of intensive care beds are occupied by coronavirus patients. France has reported more than 75,000 deaths from the virus, the seventh highest death toll in the world.