France was sharply placed under ‘amber plus’ restrictions in mid-July – a separate category from the existing traffic light scheme of red, amber, green – requiring arrivals to be quarantined for 10 days, regardless or the vaccination status. Double-vaccinated Britons returning from countries classified as amber are not required to self-isolate.
A Whitehall official said Prime Minister Boris Johnson received a briefing from the Transportation Department on infection rates in France shortly before one of his regular meetings with Health Secretary Sajid Javid on the rules of travel.
The briefing mentioned that the beta variant is known to be less sensitive to the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been used more widely in the UK than in France, and is said to have prompted Johnson to say ‘that’s it’.
During the meeting in question with Javid on July 16, the Prime Minister decided to put France in the newly created Amber Plus category.
The same Whitehall official claimed the government acted hastily after its experience with the Delta variant initially identified in India. Ministers have been blamed for not restricting travel from that country early enough, leading to the variant’s rapid spread in the UK. said the official.
A British diplomat went further, saying ministers had been “burned” by the Delta epidemic and “overreacted”.
Clément Beaune, French Minister for Europe, declared yesterday: “It is a decision which discriminates against the French because other Europeans, even countries which are in more difficult health situations because of the Delta variant or a other variant, are not affected by this quarantine. “
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told LBC on Friday: “Rightly the government has been cautious and cautious… The big concern is that we are not allowing a variant that can somehow another escape the vaccination program that we got. . “
He added that France was “being reported due to cases [of Beta] indeed in France ”and not in Reunion (an island in the Indian Ocean that is a French overseas department), as previously quoted by British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
A Downing Street spokesperson told reporters the list of traffic lights will be updated next week as per the usual tri-weekly review.
The government and the transport industry generally expect the quarantine requirement for France to be dropped. An adviser from the transport industry comments: “They make France take off as soon as possible without it being a U-turn.
When stricter rules were imposed by the UK, the beta variant was present in around 11% of positive PCR tests in France between July 6 and 12, according to data released by Public Health France.
However, British public health officials were concerned about the relative resistance of the beta variant to the AstraZeneca vaccine. John Edmunds, professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and government adviser, told the BBC’s ‘Today’ program: “It is probably less contagious than the Delta variant… evading the immune response to a better extent.
Clea Caulcutt contributed reporting.
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