France could toughen rules for UK travellers over Indian variant fears

Germany added Britain to its list of high-risk areas on Friday

Tourists cool off in the fountains across the river from the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Reuters 
Tourists cool off in the fountains across the river from the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Reuters 

France could follow Germany in imposing tougher restrictions on people arriving from Britain because of fears over the Indian variant of Covid-19.

Foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said French authorities were worried about the spread of the variant, which is feared to be more transmissible than the previously dominant UK strain.

“We hope that the variant can be controlled in a country which experienced real failures during the pandemic,” he said.

Mr Le Drian told French television that Paris could impose “health measures that are a bit stronger” on people coming from Britain.

He suggested these could be weaker than the strictest “red list” measures that France is imposing on visitors from India and 15 other countries.

People from these countries can only enter France if they have a pressing reason, must test negative in a PCR check and quarantine for 10 days.

“It won’t be the red treatment if we have to do it, it will be an intermediate treatment,” Mr Le Drian said.

“But it is not excluded – this springs to mind because of British tourists – that we have health measures that are a bit stronger.”

Fears over the UK variant led to a chaotic border closure leading up to Christmas, before special rules were imposed for road hauliers.

France is currently on the UK’s amber list, meaning anyone returning from the country must quarantine at home on their return to England.

Mr Le Drian said French authorities were in contact with their British counterparts about the variant.

Vaccine study raises UK's hopes of June 21 unlocking

As of May 19, 3,424 cases of the mutant B.1.617.2 strain had been found in the UK.

A study published at the weekend found that two doses of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines were nearly as effective against the Indian variant as against the UK strain.

While 43 per cent of the adult population has had two doses in the UK, only 19 per cent of adults are similarly protected in France.

Ministers in the UK have expressed confidence that Britain can go ahead as planned and lift almost all lockdown restrictions on June 21.

Despite this, Germany on Friday added the UK to its list of high-risk areas because of concerns over the variant.

It means visitors from the UK have to quarantine for two weeks on arrival and cannot shorten their isolation by testing negative for the virus.

Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed concern about the variant “which seems to be somewhat more aggressive” than the UK variant.

The Indian variant accounted for about 2 per cent of cases in Germany in the first week of May, according to a weekly report by the country’s public health institute.

Updated: May 24, 2021 07:20 PM

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