France has announced a ban non-essential travel to and from Britain from the weekend to slow the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant that is causing record numbers of cases.
From midnight on Saturday there will be a “requirement to have an essential reason to travel to, or come from, the UK, both for the unvaccinated and vaccinated … People cannot travel for touristic or professional reasons”, the government said in a statement.
“Faced with the extremely rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the UK, the government has chosen to reinstate the need for an essential reason for travel from and to the UK,” the statement said.
It added that French citizens and European Union nationals could still return to France from the UK.
“We will put in place a system of controls drastically tighter than the one we have already,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal told BFMTV channel.
Attal said the policy was aimed at “tightening the net” to slow down the arrival of Omicron cases in France and give time for the French vaccination booster campaign to make more ground.
“Our strategy is to delay as much as we can the development of Omicron in our country and take advantage to push ahead with the booster drive,” he said.
The World Health Organization has warned of the rapid transmissibility of the Omicron variant, saying it has now been detected in over 70 countries.
The announcement by the French government comes days after the UK removed all counties on its travel ‘red list’, saying the virus had already spread beyond that stage.