France will dramatically tighten restrictions on travel from Britain to slow the spread of the new Omicron variant, effectively banning all non-essential journeys.
The government announced in a statement that incoming travellers would require “an essential reason to travel to, or come from, the UK, both for the unvaccinated and vaccinated” from midnight on Saturday (11pm GMT Friday).
“People cannot travel for tourism or professional reasons,” it said, adding that the British government had itself said that the UK would face “a tidal wave” of new infections fuelled by the Omicron variant.
France had therefore “chosen to reinstate the need for an essential reason for travel from and to the UK”, it said.
In addition, all arrivals from the UK will need a negative PCR or antigen test taken within the previous 24, rather than 48 hours, and will have to quarantine in France for seven days – reduced to 48 hours if they can produce a new negative test.
“All travellers from the UK must register before their departure on a digital platform allowing them in particular to give the address where they will be staying in France,” the statement said, adding that the quarantine requirement would be policed.
French citizens, their partners and children, as well as people legally resident in France and EU citizens travelling to their homes through France, would not have to demonstrate an essential reason for travel and would still be able to enter France, the government has said, but would have to comply with all other measures.
For all others, valid reasons for travel are essentially limited to documented family and medical emergencies, diplomatic missions, priority health workers, transport professionals, and those who can demonstrate that their journey is “economically necessary”.
The British transport secretary, Grant Shapps, tweeted that he had confirmed with Paris that the new restrictions would not apply to lorry drivers. The ferry operator Brittany Ferries, however, described the French move as “a hammer blow to our Christmas season”.
“We will put in place a system of controls drastically tighter than the one we have already,” the French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal told BFM TV.
He said the policy was aimed at “tightening the net” to slow down the arrival of Omicron cases in France and to give time for the French vaccination booster campaign to make 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.
The latest figures released on Wednesday showed new Covid-19 infections in the UK had reached the highest daily level since the early 2020 start of the pandemic, with more than 78,000 reported. France on Wednesday reported 65,713 new infections.
The tighter restrictions come during what analysts have said is a breakdown of trust between the British and French governments in the aftermath of Brexit over a range of issues from migrants to fishing and the Northern Ireland protocol.