Thousands of British tourists return from France to avoid quarantine

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LONDON – Thousands of British tourists have beaten a precipitous retreat from France, packing planes, trains and ferries to return to the UK early on Saturday morning to avoid a mandatory 14-day home quarantine. On Friday, many British travelers to the country chose to shorten their holidays to meet the 4 a.m. deadline on Saturday which had only been announced the day before. Anyone arriving from France since Saturday must stay at home for two weeks to make sure they cannot spread the coronavirus beyond their home if they are infected.

The exodus was sparked Thursday evening when the British government withdrew France from a list of countries exempt from travel quarantine requirements due to a sharp rise in new coronavirus infections in that country.

A spokesperson for the Le Shuttle car-carrying rail service connecting Britain and France under the Channel said 12,000 people tried to book tickets within an hour of the new rules being announced, against only hundreds normally.

Some air fares sold for significantly inflated prices compared to normal fares. British Airways was selling tickets for a Paris-London flight on Friday night for 452 pounds ($ 590). The same trip on Saturday could be done for just 66 pounds.

Ferry companies offer additional services, but they sell out fast too.

For those who cannot work from home upon their return, the mandatory self-quarantine could see them further penalized. Others just couldn’t face the prospect of having to stay home for two weeks, unable to do even basic chores, go for a run, or even walk the dog.

Peter Norris, who managed to board one of the last flights on Friday from Nice, in the south of France, said it would have been “incredibly embarrassing” for him to face another period of two. weeks locked up at home.

It’s not like during the lockdown, where you can go for a run, go to the stores, come back, ”he said. None of that, we have to stay two weeks. ”

As well as making it harder for hundreds of thousands of British tourists to return home to France, the move to the UK has the potential to upend the plans for these planning trips in the days to come, especially families in the lead-up. when schools reopen in September. . French companies managing campsites in Brittany, wine tours in the Loire Valley or mountain hikes in the Alps are also right to be concerned.

The French government has said it will respond in kind, a move that is expected to further hamper travel and tourism between the two countries.

The UK government insists it had to make the decision in light of a peak of 66% of confirmed coronavirus cases in France last week. The Netherlands, Malta, Monaco and the Caribbean islands of Aruba and Turks & Caicos were also added to the UK’s quarantine list for the same reason.

In France, there is growing fear of a second epidemic peak. Health officials reported 2,846 new cases of the virus in 24 hours on Friday, bringing the total for the week to more than 12,900. Paris has expanded areas of the city where pedestrians will be required to wear masks from Saturday morning afterwards that health officials have said the coronavirus is “active” in the French capital and the Mediterranean city of Marseille.

Last month, Spain, the number one summer holiday destination for British tourists, was taken off the exemption list.

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Elaine Ganley in Paris contributed to this report.

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