'Ridiculous', travellers dismayed by UK quarantine measures for France

FILE PHOTO: Passengers wait on socially distanced chairs at Heathrow Airport amid the coronavirus disease (COVID19) pandemic in London, Britain July 7, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs

PARIS (Reuters) - Travellers about to board a train from Paris to London on the day quarantine rules in Britain were due to lapse were upset on Monday by a last-minute decision to keep them, calling it "ridiculous," "cruel" and "incoherent."

Anyone arriving from France will have to quarantine at home or in other accommodation for five to 10 days, the government said on Friday, even if they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The fact that England scrapped most coronavirus restrictions on Monday made it even more bitter for those about to check in on the Eurostar at Paris' Gare du Nord station.

"It's incoherent and ... frustrating," said Vivien Saulais, a 30-year-old Frenchman on his way back to Britain, where he lives, after visiting his family.

"I am forced to do a 10-day quarantine while the British government lifts all the restrictions and is going for a policy of herd immunity."

Britain is reporting many more COVID-19 cases than France due to the spread of the Delta variant, first identified in India, but has few cases of the Beta variant, first identified in South Africa. The government said it was keeping quarantine rules for travellers from France because of the presence of the Beta variant there.

Britain has the seventh highest COVID-19 death toll in the world, 128,708, and is forecast to soon have more new infections each day than it did at the height of a second wave of the virus earlier this year. On Sunday there were 48,161 new cases.

But, outstripping European peers, 87% of Britain's adult population has had one vaccination dose and more than 68% have had two doses. Deaths, at around 40 per day, are a fraction of a peak of above 1,800 in January.

"It's totally ridiculous because the Beta variant in France is so low," said Francis Beart, a 70-year-old Briton who had travelled to France to see his partner but had cut short his visit to allow time for quarantine. "It's a bit cruel."

French authorities have said the bulk of cases of the Beta variant come from the overseas territories of La Reunion and Mayotte, rather than mainland France, where it is not widespread.

"We don't think the United Kingdom's decisions are totally based on scientific foundations. We find them excessive," France's junior European affairs minister Clement Beaune told BFM TV.

(Reporting by Emilie Delwarde, additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta, John Irish; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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