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UK holidaymakers leave France to avoid quarantine

August 14, 2020

Ferries added extra sailings back to England, and the Eurotunnel rail shuttle for vehicles sold out as thousands of vacationing Britons scrambled to return home to avoid having to self-quarantine for 14 days.

A coronavirus warning sign at Birmingham airport
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/J. King

The British government has said all travelers from France and the Netherlands will again have to quarantine for 14 days, triggering a likely mass exodus among the estimated 160,000 UK citizens currently holidaying across the Channel.

The quarantine regulation will go into effect at 0300 UTC on Saturday (4 a.m. British local time).  

The UK imposed the latest measure as new COVID-19 infections flareup across Europe. France reported a 66% increase in infections in the past week.Both Paris and Marseilles have been declared risk zones.  

The decision was made after Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who himself became severely ill after being infected by the coronavirus, vowed to be "absolutely ruthless" in imposing quarantine restrictions on travelers.

But the move is a big blow to France's tourism industry, which benefits greatly from a large number of visitors from Britain. Last year, some 8.5 million Brits crossed the English Channel to holiday with their nearest neighbors.

French Junior Minister for European Affairs Clement Beaune, said it was "a British decision we regret and which will lead to a reciprocal measure."

France is the second-most popular holiday destination for Britons. The most popular, Spain, was already put on the quarantine list last month.

Spain's tourism sector in crisis

Travel difficulties

Getlink, which runs the Channel Tunnel rail service between Britain and France, warned travelers that all shuttles are fully booked until the next day due to the announcement.


British tourists wanting to make it back before Saturday morning found themselves stuck in long queues at the Euro tunnel. Holidaymakers have taken to Twitter to voice their concerns.

No direct flights between Paris to London were available on many travel sites.

Shares in airlines fell at the news of the reimposed quarantine regulation, with British Airways owner IAG down 6% and budget carrier EasyJet down 7%.

Return to strict rules

The UK initially had a rule imposing a quarantine on all people arriving in the country, but later set out some exemptions. However, in late July, it reimposed quarantine for travelers returning from Spain, adding Andorra, Belgium and the Bahamas last week.

Britain itself is the worst-hit country in Europe, with a death toll from the COVID-19 disease of more than 41,000.

France reported 2,669 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours on Friday, the highest daily increase since its lockdown, one of the most severe in Europe, was lifted in May.

mvb, tj/mm (AFP, AP)

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