Ski holidays under threat: France looks at tighter controls for UK travellers

Skiing is a major winter money earner for European countries

People wear protective face masks while queuing for ski lifts in France. AFP
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France is considering tighter restrictions on travellers from Britain as both countries try to tackle and reduce outbreaks of the Covid Omicron mutation.

Any increased restrictions would hit France’s ski industry in its key weeks, and also deal another blow to the British tourist industry.

Spokesman Gabriel Attal said the French government was looking at when and how restrictions would be tightened. But he did not say there was a definite plan or timeline to follow.

“Regarding Britain, the current rule is to show a negative test less than 48 hours old in order to enter France,” Mr Attal said.

“But we are always looking at means to tighten the framework, we are currently working on that and we should, I think, come to a conclusion in the coming days.”

Skiing is a major winter money earner for European economies. Austria, Germany, France, and Italy all have major ski resorts in the Alps and Pyrenees. Skiing is also hugely popular in Nordic countries.

But the bonhomie of after-ski parties in restaurants and bars has clashed with Covid lockdowns, social distancing restrictions and capped capacities at venues.

The UK confirmed the world's first known Omicron death and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has refused to rule out tighter restrictions before Christmas.

By Monday, there were 4,713 confirmed cases of Omicron and about 40 per cent of them were in London.

So far, France has 133 Omicron cases, but it is also bracing for a new Covid-19 wave to hit in January.

French scientists said the Omicron variant was spreading “extremely quickly”. There could be “rapid growth in France” and its impact would be felt “in the coming weeks".

Despite the Omicron threat, Mr Attal said there were no plans to take new measures to contain the disease.

“Regarding rules in France, there are no plans to change them. The key is to pursue the vaccination campaign with the booster shot,” Mr Attal said.

The highly contagious Omicron mutation persuaded Britain to create a new red list for people landing from African countries with Omicron outbreaks. The red list adds mandatory quarantine and raises costs for travellers arriving in Britain.

Mr Attal said France was currently tackling a Covid wave fuelled mainly by the Delta variant, with 133 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant, first detected in late November.

The seven-day moving average of daily new cases, which evens out reporting irregularities, stood on Monday at 48,879, the highest in more than a year. At 14,527, the current number of people in hospital with Covid-19 has reached a peak since June 5.

France reported on December 13 that a further 231 people had died from Covid in hospitals in the previous 24 hours. The number of patients in intensive care units had risen by 150 to stand at 2,752.

Updated: December 14, 2021, 12:14 PM