France travel: UK traveller restrictions to be tightened - what are the new rules?

By Alex Nelson
Thursday, 16th December 2021, 12:10 pm
Updated Thursday, 16th December 2021, 12:11 pm
A woman wearing a protective mask walks her dog on the Esplanade du Trocadero square in front of the Eiffel Tower in March 2020 (Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

France is introducing tougher rules for travellers from the UK in an attempt to counter the spread of the Omicron variant.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced tough restrictions will be enforced from midnight on Saturday 18 December, including a requirement for “compelling reasons” to travel to or from the UK.

Trips for tourism or business will not be permitted, his office said in a statement.

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The French government is also calling on travellers who had planned to visit the United Kingdom to “postpone their travel”.

The new measures come as concerns are mounting over the Omicron variant, which is surging in the UK, with daily confirmed Covid-19 cases reaching a record high of 78,610 on 15 December.

The new measures will apply to everyone, regardless of vaccination status.

But what are the current rules on entering France, and what will change in the next few days?

Here is everything you need to know.

What are the new rules?

The French government said that stronger rules were being implemented because “in the UK Government’s own words, the UK will face a ‘tidal wave’ linked to the Omicron variant in the coming days.”

In a statement on the new rules for travellers from the UK, it said: “In the face of the extremely rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the United Kingdom, the Government has chosen to reinstate compelling reasons for travel to and from the United Kingdom, and to strengthen the requirement for testing on departure and arrival."

From midnight on Saturday 18 December, the following rules will apply for travel between the United Kingdom and France.

There will be a requirement to have a compelling reason to travel to or from the United Kingdom, for both unvaccinated and vaccinated people.

A list of reasons for travel can be found at this website, but they will not allow travel for tourism or business reasons.

These “compelling reasons” will not apply to French nationals and their spouses and children, who are still able to travel to France from the UK.

All travellers (including the vaccinated) must present a negative PCR or antigen test taken less than 24 hours before their departure.

Self–administered tests such as those provided free of charge by the NHS are not considered valid for the purpose of travel, and cost €49 (£42) for PCR tests and €29 (£25) for rapid antigen tests.

(Image: NationalWorld/JPIMedia)

Do you have to quarantine?

There is also an obligation for all travellers from the United Kingdom to register on a digital platform and provide the address of their stay in France prior to their trip.

This will then generate orders for all travellers, whether unvaccinated as vaccinated, to isolate for at least two days in a place of their choosing.

This requirement may be lifted after 48 hours, following proof of a negative PCR or antigen test.

“Controls will be organised to ensure the proper implementation of these measures,” said the French government.

Will I be able to transit through France?

This measures have thrown the Christmas travel plans for hundreds of thousands of people into chaos.

UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said hauliers will be exempt from the new rules.

He posted on Twitter: “To confirm I have liaised with my French counterpart (Jean-Baptiste Djebbari) and hauliers will remain exempt.”

Following the announcement of travel restrictions by the French government, Ferry operator DFDS said: “Passengers are able to transit through France to other countries without having to quarantine as long as the transit is less than 24 hours.”

What are the current Covid-related rules on entering France?

Before Saturday’s rule change, all travellers aged 12 years or over travelling from outside of the European Union - which now includes the UK - to France must show proof of a negative Covid-19 test result from either a PCR or antigen test.

For travellers who are fully vaccinated, these tests must be taken no more than 48 hours before travel, while those who are not fully jabbed must have taken their test no more than 24 hours before travelling.

Non-vaccinated arrivals from the European Union must show proof of a negative Covid-19 test result taken within 24 hours before departure.

Much like the UK’s recently scrapped international travel lists, France has a colour-code system governing international travel to and from the country.

There are the usual green, amber and red categories, alongside a new ‘scarlet red’ designation introduced in response to the Omicron variant.

It is therefore recommended that you regularly check the status of the country you are travelling to or from on the French government’s website.

For the latest information on the rules and restrictions in place when travelling to and from France, head to the Government’s foreign travel advice website.

A version of this article originally appeared on our sister title, NationalWorld