France has significantly reduced entries from Britain as the new and more transmissible Omicron strain of the COVID-19 continues its rapid advance.
Only those with an urgent need to do so will be able to enter or exit Britain, as of midnight on Saturday, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Thursday.
Castex noted that this did not include travel for work or tourism.
Under the new rules, people will have to register before travelling from Britain to France, take a PCR or rapid test and go into quarantine at a place of their choice after arriving in France, whether or not they are vaccinated.
They will be able to exit from quarantine if they test negative for the virus after 48 hours.
Travellers will need a “compelling reason” to travel to or from the UK, though that does not apply to French nationals and their spouses and children, he said.
Castex announced controls had been set up to monitor compliance with the measures.
Anyone considering travel to Britain was urged to rethink their plans.
French government spokesman, Gabriel Attal, earlier told BFM television that the rules were aimed at slowing down the arrival of Omicron cases in France and allowing the country’s booster campaign to advance.
Amid questions over how the new policy will affect cross-Channel trade, British Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said hauliers will be exempt.
“To confirm I have liaised with my French counterpart (Jean-Baptiste Djebbari) and hauliers will remain exempt,’’ he said in a tweet.
A spokesman for ferry operator Brittany Ferries said: “These new measures are a hammer blow to our Christmas season.
“In the context of an Omicron variant that is passing through the French population as it is in the UK, further border controls seem as unnecessary as they are unwelcome’’.
British Health Minister, Gillian Keegan, said she has had to cancel a skiing trip to France over Christmas due to the rising threat of Omicron.
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme for her reaction to the French travel restrictions, she said: “My first thought is I’m glad that I cancelled my trip to France because that’s where I was supposed to go for Christmas’’.
“But, of course, every government is dealing with Omicron, every government has to make decisions and have their response to it.
“It is obviously going to alter people’s plans, which is very unfortunate.’’
The new French measures come as concerns are mounting over the Omicron variant, which is surging in Britain, with daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reaching a record high of 78,610 new cases on Wednesday.