June 24, 2024

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The Telegraph

France border testing is good news for lorry drivers – but not for holidaymakers

Travel between the UK and France resumed this morning, after the French government agreed to lift its total travel ban. Rail, air and sea services have all restarted, after being halted on Sunday due to fears of the emergence of a new coronavirus variant, which has spread rapidly across south-east England. However, while the easing of restrictions is good news for hauliers and supermarkets, for holidaymakers and British citizens hoping to visit family in France this Christmas, any hopes that they might be able to travel have been dashed. Only French citizens, European Area nationals, plus British or third country citizens living in France will be permitted entry. These measures are expected to last until at least January 6. Travellers from the UK must now provide evidence of a negative Covid test (taken no more than 72 hours previously). Notably, results from rapid “lateral flow” tests can be shown in addition to the most-accurate, but slower to turnaround lab-analysed PCR tests, which many countries exclusively accept. Originally France was unwilling to accept rapid tests, which provide results in around 30 minutes, but relented due to the lorry chaos in Kent. Mobile units, overseen by Army logistics experts, will now administer the tests to at least 6,000 freight drivers stranded in the UK. The news has been welcomed by Number 10, though it is expected that the backlog of lorries will take days to clear. It has not yet been announced what the protocol will be for French drivers who test positive for the virus. Arrivals by sea and air routes will also need to complete a ‘sworn statement’ (déclaration sur l’honneur), self-certifying they are not suffering from symptoms associated with coronavirus and have not been in contact with confirmed cases in the preceding fortnight. Fears have been raised that the decision to reopen the border may have come too late for some French nationals living in the UK to secure tests in time to get home for Christmas, and that few routes will be available to them following a raft of flight and train cancellations. Nearly 60 countries have now announced bans on UK arrivals, citing fears over the new variant. However, the Netherlands and Belgium have since relaxed their rules and are allowing entry under certain conditions. Gloria Guevara, head of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), has condemned the flurry of restrictions, stating: “While protecting public health is paramount, blanket travel bans cannot be the answer. They have not worked in the past and they will not work now.” Instead, Guevara has called for a “comprehensive and quick turnaround testing regime” to curtail the spread of the virus and limit the devastating economic damage.”