Britain’s Transport Minister said Thursday that quarantine measures will be re-imposed for travellers entering the country from France and the Netherlands due to rising cases of Covid-19 in these countries. Paris quickly announced reciprocal measures.

British Transport Minister Grant Shapps (pictured above) wrote on Twitter: “Data shows we need to remove France, the Netherlands, Monaco, Malta, Turks & Caicos & Aruba from our list of coronavirus Travel Corridors to keep infection rates DOWN.”

The announcement has prompted panic among UK holidaymakers on the continent. It is estimated that over 400,000 British holidaymakers are in France – many on the Riviera, and with most flights and trains already packed at the height of the holiday season, many travellers are in a quandary as to how to get home before the quarantine comes into force – at 4am UK time on Saturday 15 August. Anyone arriving in the UK from France after this time will have to self-isolate for 14 days.

As some people attempt to beat the deadline, cross-channel tunnel operator Eurotunnel has warned people not to turn up at their terminal without a booking, saying that they won’t get a crossing without one. The company which operates the Channel Tunnel said that the service is already very busy this weekend and there is no additional capacity. Additional flights are being added by several airlines from French airports to help repatriate holidaymakers before the deadline and ferry operators are adding additional services. DFDS Ferries has tweeted that it had added an four extra departures from Calais to help repatriate customers on the Continent but that bookings must be made before arriving at the port. P&O Ferries said it had increased its capacity on its Spirit class ships and said that passengers should book in advance rather than just turn up at ports. It also advised customers that any further changes to capacity would be updated on social media.

France is the second most-visited country by UK holidaymakers just behind Spain. By the same token, French tourists generally rank #2 in the UK, behind US travellers in “normal” times.  

A similar exodus of French tourists is thus also expected from the UK.

The French departments of the Bouches-du-Rhône and Paris have been officially classified as “active circulation zones” for Covid-19. The classification means that prefects will now have the ability to take more restrictive measures to fight against the spread of Covid-19, including the closure of  restaurants and markets and limiting gatherings of people. The wearing of masks is being made compulsory in all markets in the Alpes Maritimes. The Prefect, Bernard Gonzalez, issued a decree which makes mask waring mandatory by everyone aged 11 and over in all covered and outdoor markets in the department. The decree is initially in force for a period of one month. Those who are in breach of the decree are liable to a fine of €135, rising to €450 for those committing a repeat offence within 15 days.

Toulon, meanwhile, has become the latest French city to introduce the compulsory wearing of masks in certain outdoor areas. As from Monday, masks will be compulsory in certain areas in the centre of Toulon, including an area of the old town near the port.

Photo – top of page – Official portrait of British Transport Minister Grant Shapps – Copyright 2019 – Chris McAndrew

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