France is to tighten restrictions on travel from Britain to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 that is causing record numbers of cases on the other side of the Channel, the French government has said.
“We will put in place a system of controls drastically tighter than the one we have already,” the government spokesperson Gabriel Attal told BFM television, saying the office of the prime minister, Jean Castex, would issue a statement on the new measures in the coming hours.
He said travellers coming to France would need a negative test less than 24 hours old, a blanket quarantine would be enforced on return to France, and trips for tourism limited.
“We will reduce the validity of the test to come to France from 48 hours to 24 hours,” said Attal.
“We will limit the reasons for coming to France from the UK, it will be limited to French nationals and residents and their families. Tourism or business trips for people who do not have French or European nationality or are residents will be limited.
“People [coming back] will have to register on an app and will have to self-isolate in a place of their choosing for seven days – controlled by the security forces – but this can be shortened to 48 hours if a negative test is carried out in France.”
Attal said this policy was aimed at “tightening the net” to slow down the arrival of Omicron cases in France and give time for the French vaccination booster campaign to gain more ground.
“Our strategy is to delay as much as we can the development of Omicron in our country and take advantage to push ahead with the booster drive,” he said.
Britain recorded a record 78,610 laboratory-confirmed Covid cases on Wednesday, with scientists predicting even higher rates as Omicron is believed to spread much faster than the currently dominant Delta variant.
The tight travel restrictions are also being imposed during what analysts see as a breakdown of trust between the British and French governments over a host of issues from migration to fishing after Brexit.
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, last week accused Boris Johnson’s UK government of failing to keep its word on Brexit, saying: “The problem with the British government is that it does not do what it says.”