HOLIDAY plans to go to France have been thrown into chaos after the Government took the country off the quarantine-free travel corridor list.
Ministers made the decision today after a surge of fresh cases in France – here’s what you can and can’t do after the announcement.
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What has happened in France?
On August 13 the UK government announced that people travelling from France to the UK will have to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival from 4 am Saturady.
The number of new infections has risen in France – hitting a high of 2,669 new Covid-19 cases on August 13, a record number outside of lockdown.
As many as 160,000 Brits caught on holidays to France will need to scramble home to the UK before 4am on Saturday otherwise kids could risk missing their first day of school in five months.
But flights, Channel crossings and Eurostar are all filling up fast – and the price of flights has jumped by 4 times the normal cost.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex warned this week that the country had been going “the wrong way” for two weeks.
He said: “The epidemiological situation, which we are following very closely, is deteriorating: 2,000 new cases per day compared to 1,000 three weeks ago.”
“About 25 new clusters are identified every day compared to five three weeks ago.”
The spread of the virus is mainly among young people and in cities such as Paris and Marseille.
Before, the UK had allowed Brits to travel to the holiday hotspot without needing to self-quarantine on return.
After a spike in coronavirus cases in France, holidaymakers in the country will now be forced to quarantine for two weeks upon returning home to the UK.
Can I still travel to France?
Yes but for essential travel only.
Flights are still departing from the UK to France, but the FCO has changed its advice for “essential reasons”.
If you decide to book a holiday to France you will be travelling against government advice.
This means you are unlikely to be covered under travel insurance.
I am already in France – do I need to rush back to the UK?
That depends on whether you are able to bag yourself a seat on a plane or train and if you are able to quarantine when you return.
The Transport Secretary has warned people not to turn up to airports or the Eurostar without calling ahead – or risk being sorely disappointed.
Mr Shapps told Sky News: “Clearly quite a lot of people may be trying to return immediately.
“The advice from all the travel operators is very clear, to contact them in advance.
“Don’t just turn up because you will almost certainly be disappointed and it will just create queues which no one wants to see.”
Mr Shapps added: “Given what has happened this summer, what’s already happened in places like Spain and the vast amount of coverage about concerns in France and elsewhere, no one will be entirely surprised and I do sympathise with people.”
If families stay on holidays in France for too long there is a risk kids will miss the first few days of school after spending five months out of the classroom because of lockdown.
Some people are unable to work from home and should consider returning before the deadline.
The Government has said that people do not need to immediately return to the UK.
Mr Shapps added: “If you are already there, you can continue and enjoy your holiday.”
You should contact your tour operator or airline if you have questions about your return journey.
What are the quarantine rules?
Since June 8, guidelines have required anyone entering the UK from a non-corridor country to quarantine for 14 days.
Those rules continue to apply for the time being – both to Brits returning to the country and tourists arriving from abroad.
Anyone entering the country must provide contact details and then self-isolate for 14 days, or face a fine of up to £1,000.
Police are conducting checks to ensure people are quarantining and not leaving their residence for the two-week period.
Magistrates also have the powers to prosecute or to issue unlimited fines for persistent breaches of the new self-isolation rule, or for refusal to pay a fine that has already been issued.
The quarantine is being run and enforced by Border Force, cops, and Public Health England officials.
Brits living in the UK can quarantine at their own home, but they are not allowed to leave the house for a fortnight.
Anyone without accommodation should be provided alternative accommodation by the government.
Which workers are exempt from quarantine?
Most quarantine exemptions cover either transport professionals or key workers travelling from abroad to the UK on very specific business.
Individuals that are exempt from quarantine will still have to fill out the standard tracking form and must have official clearance that they can produce at the border.
There are no exemptions for people coming back from holiday, no matter what your profession.
Among those that are exempt are:
- Essential UK and foreign diplomats that are on a mission, including intelligence staff
- Defence personnel, forces and contractors who are confirmed as exempt through the Ministry of Defence
- Border security and maintenance staff
- People who live in the UK but work in another country and travel between the UK and country of work at least once a week, and visa versa.
- People licenced to transport passengers by coach and bus internationally
- International freight and goods drivers, including post and medicine.
- Eurotunnel and Eurostar staff, pilots and air crew
- Industry and infrastructure specialists that are coming in for work purposes
- International prison escorts
- People essential to clinical trials and studies
If you are unsure if you qualify, you can find the full details on the government website here.
Do other countries have quarantine rules?
Most countries have some form of screening practice depending on where you are flying from.
You will have to comply with coronavirus requirements in the country you travel to.
This may include self-isolating or providing your details to local authorities.
There are around 70 countries that are deemed safe by the UK and have a travel corridor scheme that means you won’t have to quarantine at either end.
You can get precise Foreign Office information on the country you’re heading by heading to their website.
The FCO recommends that you make sure you have appropriate travel insurance in case you have unexpected costs.
What has the response been?
There was mass confusion over the sudden move among tourists, with holidaymakers running for the airports to avoid the quarantine deadline.
It is thought more than 160,000 British tourists will be affected by the restrictions as many already on holiday or having booked one face uncertainty as to whether their trip will still go ahead.
Thousands started cancelling holidays after Spain was kicked off of the safe country list for fear of getting caught up in another sudden quarantine move.
Do I need to self-quarantine when in France?
No. The most updated advice doesn’t require Brits travelling to France to self-quarantine upon arrival.
But there are fears France could respond by introducing reciprocal quarantine rules for Brits.
Currently, any travellers entering France who have symptoms of COVID-19 will have to quarantine for 14 days either at home or in a location organised by the French authorities.
But anyone planning on going to France should monitor the rules closely and check FCO advice.
Do I need to self-quarantine when I come back to the UK?
Yes. But before you return to the UK you will need to provide details of your journey and contact details BEFORE you travel.
You must complete this online form – which you cannot submit until 48 hours before you’re due to arrive back in the UK.
If you refuse to provide contact details you could face a fine up to £100.
Details on what you can or cannot do while self-isolating can be found here.
Once you complete the form you will then be required to show it at the UK border – either a printed version or showing it on your phone is fine.
Can I cancel my holiday and will I get a refund?
It is likely tour operators like Jet2, Easyjet Holidays and British Airways Holidays will cancel package holidays.
You will be entitled to choose between re-booking or a cash refund.
You need to wait for the operators to cancel to claim refund – DO NOT cancel the holiday yourself.
If you have booked flights and accommodation separately it is unlikely you will get a refund – you may be able to re-book but that will depend on the terms and conditions of the hotel and airline.
What will happen to my flight?
If your flight isn’t cancelled you may not be able to claim a refund.
Some airlines such as Ryanair are likely to continue to fly to France, despite the FCO warning.
Easyjet is allowing customers who no longer wish to travel to change their flight without a fee.
When Spain was taken off the quarantine list, Ryanair waived its fee for flight changes made during a certain time period and it is likely they will do the same.
British Airways said it is still operating a limited schedule to France.
If your flight is cancelled by the airline, you’ll can get a voucher or full refund.
If you’ve booked a package holiday with BA that is set to depart in the next three weeks and no long want to travel, you can also get a voucher or refund.
What will happen to my hotel booking?
Hotels in France are still open, meaning it is unlikely you will get a refund.
If the government orders your hotel to shut as part of an enforced lockdown – you can then claim for a refund on any unused nights.
If you want to cancel you need to check the T&Cs of the hotel.
Some booking websites like Booking.com and Airbnb do offer last minute cancellations.
Am I covered under travel insurance?
If you booked your holiday to France when the government said you could travel there and you are currently in France then you are covered under travel insurance.
That is because you booked while still adhering to FCO advice.
If you book your holiday to France NOW after FCO has advised against “all but essential travel” then you will not be covered.
Travel insurance will automatically by invalid if you’re going to a country where the Foreign Office is still advising against all but essential travel.
If you booked your holiday before FCO changed their travel advice, but you have yet to travel then tour operators should be offering re-booking or refund options for trips that cannot go ahead.
You should check your travel insurance policy to see if you are covered in the event of cancellations.
Again, you should wait for the airlines or accommodation to cancel in order to be eligible for any re-booking or refunds – DO NOT cancel it yourself.