France to retaliate over British quarantine measures

Patrick Sawer
Municipal police officers wearing face masks talk to a woman, at the Promenade des Anglais, as they check that safety restrictions are being practised, after France reopened its beaches to the public as part of the softening of its strict lockdown rules - Eric Gaillard/Reuters
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France is to impose a quarantine on British travellers after the UK announced all new arrivals will have to spend two weeks in self-isolation.

The French government made it clear it would retaliate in kind after Britain announced the 14-day quarantine period for new arrivals to the UK from June 8, including the French.

In response French ministers said they “regretted” Britain's decision and would introduce their own reciprocal measures.

The British decision to impose quarantine measures had already angered the travel industry and the French response will only compound its despair at the prospect of international travel being disrupted further.

Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, announced on Friday travellers entering the UK would have to self-isolate for 14 days or they could face a £1,000 fine. 

Passengers will be required to fill out an online contact form providing details of where they will spend their self-isolation.

If a person does not have suitable accommodation they will be required to stay in "facilities arranged by the government" at the person's own expense.

It was confirmed France would not be exempt from the rules, despite reports earlier this week its citizens may not be forced to self-isolate. 

In response a spokesman for France’s Interior Minister said: “We take note of the British government’s decision and we regret it. France is ready to put in place a reciprocal measure as soon as the system comes into force on the British side.”

Unlike many other countries, Britain has until now carried out few tests and checks on visitors, with quarantine limited only to arrivals from China at the start of the outbreak.

Spain and Italy already have rules that mean international arrivals must self-isolate for two weeks, while Greece currently instructs arrivals to quarantine if they test positive for Covid-19.

Italy will lift its quarantine measures on June 3.

Raffaele Trombetta, the Italian ambassador to the UK, said no discussions had yet taken place between Italy and Britain.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme:  “We believe that this pandemic is a global problem so the best thing to do is to tackle it with a coordinated approach. We have made it clear what we are going to do and it’s important for British people to know that they can come to Italy. 

“We understand that the UK's new rules will be reassessed after three weeks so hopefully there will be an easing of the measures as we are doing in Italy.”

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said in his weekly Saturday televised address that "the entry of foreign tourists will restart in July in a safe manner".

Germany imposed blanket quarantine for arrivals in April, although many regions of the country have since decided to ignore it.

But there are now fears that other countries will consider introducing restrictions on British travellers, especially if our Covid-19 infections and deaths remain higher than theirs.

As part of Britain’s quarantine regime, travellers will be asked to fill in a form with their contact information and health officials will perform spot checks to ensure they are complying with the measures. 

Road hauliers and medical officials will be exempt, while the common travel area with Ireland will be unaffected. 

Ms Patel defended the British move, stating: “We are not shutting down completely. We are not closing our borders. This is absolutely not about booking holidays. We want to avoid a second wave and that is absolutely vital."

But the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said the quarantine plans were “deeply concerning” and could be avoided with strong safety measures.

The airline industry has also been particularly critical, warning they would have a damaging impact on the livelihood of thousands.

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of industry body Airlines UK, said: "Introducing a quarantine at this stage makes no sense and will mean very limited international aviation at best. It is just about the worst thing government could do if their aim is to restart the economy."