France Eases U.K. Border Restrictions for Vaccinated People
(Bloomberg) -- Vaccinated U.K. travelers will no longer need an essential reason to enter France from Friday, ending almost a month of restrictions.
With the omicron variant now widespread in both countries, the curbs are no longer needed, a statement from French Prime Minister Jean Castex’s office said on Thursday.
Coming at a peak point for holiday travel, the restrictions had dampened hopes of a much-needed boost for the tourism industry, one of the worst casualties of the pandemic.
France is the biggest market for U.K. tourists, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council, with British residents accounting for 14% of visits to the country. Overall, international tourists spent 60 billion euros ($68.8 billion) a year in France before the pandemic, said the group, which represents tourism businesses including airlines and hotels.
“This will come as a huge relief to those with trips planned over the coming weeks – in addition to airlines and tour operators with a big presence in the ski market,” said Tim Alderslade, chief executive of carrier lobby group Airlines UK. “It’s a busy time in the winter season.”
Shares of Air France-KLM were down about 0.5% at 12:41 p.m. in Paris, while Eurotunnel operator Getlink SE reversed earlier losses. Low-cost U.K. carrier EasyJet Plc was down less than 1% in London, as was British Airways owner IAG SA.
Hitting the Slopes
EasyJet welcomed the lifting of restrictions, saying it is particularly good “for those looking to book a last-minute half-term break or planning to head to the slopes.”
Eurostar had recently cut the number of trains connecting Paris to London in the face of declining demand, and may now need to review plans.
“We are ready to welcome more passengers on board and will continue to increase the frequency of our services in the coming weeks,” the train operator said.
Under the new guidelines, France is also lifting the requirement to self-isolate for people who have had the Covid vaccine. All travelers will need a negative test less than 24 hours old. The rules remain unchanged for non-vaccinated people.
France had banned tourists and almost all business travel starting Dec. 18, with a stringent list drawn out for exceptions to the rule. The restrictions were put in place as the highly contagious omicron variant began registering pandemic-era records in infections in the U.K.
With evidence emerging that the latest virus strain had lower rates of hospitalizations and deaths despite soaring cases, France broadened the list of reasons for visits earlier this month -- especially for business travelers.
“The ban was a classic example of ‘panic measures’ set in the wake of the discovery of the omicron variant,” said Agnes Leroux, policy director for the lobby group Airlines for Europe, calling the easing of restrictions a “positive move.”
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