‘This will ruin summer for many’ says Eurotunnel
Barely 48 hours before new travel rules were due to begin, ministers announced France would not be part of the scheme.
From Monday, travellers returning to the UK from all other amber list will no longer need to spend ten days self-isolating at home if they have been fully vaccinated.
But after a last-minute change of heart, France has been added to a new “amber-plus” list. This will force everyone returning from France to Britain to complete ten days of self-isolation and two PCR Covid tests, regardless of vaccine status.
The sudden turnaround has thrown the plans of thousands of Britons in France into chaos, as anyone with a return trip planned from Monday had expected to escape any quarantine provided they had received both their jabs.
France is second only to Spain in terms of British visits, and is also home to hundreds of thousands of UK expatriates and property owners.
Graham McLeod, from Bolton, is staying at his holiday home in Charente Maritime on France’s Atlantic coast with his partner.
He said the government’s messaging on travel rules had been “inconsistent, irregular, unclear and frankly unworkable”.
“We struggle to understand the sudden desire to introduce quarantine for returnees from France and cannot help feel this has far more to do with politics and much less to do with science.”
Mr McLeod had planned to stay in France for five weeks, but they are now planning to return after less than three weeks.
“We could stay and hope the situation changes but given the knee-jerk reaction by the UK government we cannot take the chance in case the situation deteriorates further,” he added.
Georgina Thomas, a nurse from Buckinghamshire, has been visiting her parents in the countryside between La Rochelle and Bordeaux for the last three weeks with her baby daughter.
“I’m frustrated with the inconsistent approach the Government are taking, it doesn’t all appear logical,” the 32-year-old said.
“If a quarantine is necessary then so be it but I’m confident that my risk will be higher when I return to the UK.”
The new rules are also a fresh blow to the travel and holiday industries, which had been hoping to recoup some of their pandemic losses by cashing in on demand for cross-Channel trips during the school holidays.
A chalet owner from Essex called Debbie, who did not want to share her surname, said her family’s holiday let in France would suffer a financial hit because of the amber-plus decision.
“Bookings were just starting to pick up and we’ve been helped by European guests but this affects our vaccinated UK guests.”
Debbie said it costs her family over 3,000 euros per month to keep business going so they have had to borrow to keep it afloat.
“It seems to me that this is political game-playing… it’s like watching a tennis match and the people are the ball,” she added.
“This will ruin summer for many people,” said John Keefe of Eurotunnel, which runs the Shuttle operation for cars between Folkestone and Calais.
“It is disappointing that the government has cancelled the option of quarantine-free travel for double-vaccinated parents and their families so close to the school holidays and so soon after they had confirmed that travel to France was safe.”
A spokesperson for the travel agent association ABTA said the government’s last minute U-turn on France would “undoubtedly dent consumer confidence in overseas travel” just as amber list countries were about to become more feasible summer holiday options.
“Continuing changes to travel restrictions will delay any meaningful recovery for the industry and this news is just the latest example of why a tailored package of financial support for the travel and tourism sector must be introduced.”