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Paris (AFP)- France will ease coronavirus travel restrictions for travelers from Britain on Friday, allowing vaccinated tourists to visit if they test negative, the government has announced.
A blanket ban on non-essential travel announced on December 16 caused major disruption over the Christmas and New Year holidays, but was justified by the French government as necessary to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant.
“The wide distribution today of the variant in both countries has led the government to make the following changes,” said a statement from Jean Castex’s cabinet.
From Friday, all vaccinated travelers entering France from the United Kingdom will only have to present a negative PCR or antigen test carried out 24 hours before their departure.
Those not vaccinated will however have to provide a “compelling reason” for traveling as a family emergency, and will have to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival in France at an address which must be registered with the security forces.
The opening of the border will allow thousands of winter sports enthusiasts to head to the French Alps, popular with British skiers who have had to cancel holidays booked over the Christmas and New Year period.
“We are very relieved and very happy to be operational again from this weekend,” Alex Sykes, flight operations manager at British tour operator Mark Warner, told AFP.
“We hope this will be the last of the disruptions of this winter season.”
The Christmas restrictions meant the cancellation of all of the company’s French ski holidays and “a big commercial period was lost”, he added.
“It’s been a roller coaster ride for almost two years now.”
The restrictions have also dealt an economic blow to French alpine ski resorts, which were closed last winter due to Covid restrictions in France.
French Tourism Minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said last week that stays in the Savoie and Haute-Savoie regions, where most seaside resorts are located, had fallen by 10 to 20% during the Christmas and New Year period compared to 2019.
Lemoyne said on Thursday that Britons made up 15% of all visitors to French ski resorts, and even more at some of the larger high-altitude resorts.
“This morning’s decision will hopefully allow them to recoup some of their losses,” he told TV5 Monde.
The president of the National Association of Ski Resort Mayors, Jean-Luc Boch, told the Dauphine Libère newspaper that the changes were “great news for sales, for footfall and especially for Britons.
“They are certainly the most loyal customers of our resorts,” added the mayor of La Plagne, a large ski resort.
The French travel rules came at a time when relations between the British and French governments were at an all-time low due to a host of Brexit-related disagreements, as well as cross-Channel migration and a subcontract. poached sailor with Australia.
© 2022 AFP