France has lifted most of its restrictions on vaccinated travelers from the UK, which will pave the way for tourists to return from Friday.
The French prime minister’s office said strict travel restrictions introduced in mid-December was no longer necessary as their aim was to slow down the spread of the more transmissible Omicron variant – at the time more common in the UK than France, but now predominant in both.
“The widespread distribution of this variant in both countries today has led the government to make these adjustments,” it said.
All travelers coming from the UK will still have to show a negative Covid-19 test that is less than 24 hours old.
But vaccinated people will be able to enter France for any reason without registering or being quarantined. Unvaccinated people should have a necessary reason for their trip, register their location with authorities and isolate themselves for 10 days.
As in many countries worldwide, the Omicron variant, which is extremely contagious but often causes less serious illnesses, has caused infections to rise to record levels in the UK and France in recent weeks. Britain seems to have reached its peak in terms of new daily infections, while France has not yet, even though its explosive growth rate has slowed.
France on Wednesday reported about 280,000 new infections based on a moving average of seven days, more than five times the levels of just a month ago before the Omicron effect hit. Its incidence stood at 420 cases per 100,000 people, while Britain’s was 235 per 100,000 people.
Hospitalizations have also increased, but the government has promised that the health care system will be able to withstand the pressure. Nearly 24,000 people are currently being admitted with Covid-19 in France, 13 percent more than a week ago.
The easing of travel restrictions with Britain will come as welcome news for France’s travel industry, especially the Alpine ski resorts which have been hit hard by the loss of British tourists during the Christmas holidays.
About 15 percent of skiers in French resorts come from the UK, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Minister for Tourism and Small Business, told TV5 Monde.
“Hopefully this morning’s decision will allow the resorts to [revenue] gap, ”he said. The government has spent € 38 billion to support the tourism sector since the pandemic began two years ago.