A British minister has sought to ease a growing diplomatic row with France over imposing stricter international restrictions on millions of travelers due to the threat of the beta variant of the coronavirus.
Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, defended the decision to put France on the ‘amber-plus’ list, after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Thursday suggested that the prevalence of the variant in Réunion, a French overseas territory in the Indian Ocean, was partly to blame.
The move – which means fully vaccinated people entering the UK from France cannot avoid quarantine and must self-isolate for up to 10 days – has sparked fury from French authorities and those living or spending their time. holidays across the Channel.
A French MP recently criticized the additional restrictions as not being based on science or logic, summing them up as “Kafka goes on vacation with Godot”, while the French minister for Europe called the change ” frankly incomprehensible for health reasons ”and discriminatory.
British ministers and the Joint Biosecurity Center, which advises on the Covid situation in countries around the world, came under further pressure on Thursday, when they were accused by the Office for Statistics Regulation of “failing to render data and clear sources ”to prove the need for drastic action.
There have been 1,023 beta cases in Réunion, or about a third of the total number discovered in mainland France, 2,974, according to the Global Avian Flu Data Sharing Initiative.
Raab suggested that the situation in Reunion, which is still on the normal orange list, was in part the reason for the restriction on travel from France, saying it was “not the distance that matters” but rather “the distance. ease of traveling between the different components of any individual country ”.
But Shapps told LBC that Reunion was only “part of the story” and that the decision was made “because of cases really in France” – on the continent – especially in the north. He said the UK government had taken a “safety-oriented approach” because it was concerned about “not undoing all the good work that has been done with vaccinations”. He added: “The government has been careful and careful… and it is right that we do it. “
Government sources have said France will likely be removed from the Orange List in an announcement to be made next Thursday and which will go into effect the following Monday, August 9. However, Spain – where beta cases have risen 14.2% in the past four weeks – is at risk of being on the ‘amber-plus’ list.
Labor said ministers were “knitting themselves together trying to explain their decision” and said if they “misinterpreted the data on cases in mainland France, they must be honest and apologize”.
“It is completely unfair that vacationers who booked in good faith in accordance with the government’s own advice had to shell out extra for the first flights or have lost income by isolating themselves on their return,” the shadow secretary said. transport, Jim McMahon. .
Sir Peter Ricketts, former UK ambassador to France and national security adviser, also said he was “struggling to find consistency” in the government’s position.