Travel news – live: France to lift UK travel ban today ahead of strict new vaccine passport rules

·17-min read
Travel news – live: France to lift UK travel ban today ahead of strict new vaccine passport rules

From today, France is lifting its blanket ban on British travellers.

Tourists from the UK who are fully vaccinated will be allowed back into the country for the first time since 18 December, without the need to provide a “compelling reason” for travel or to isolate on arrival.

Travellers will need to provide a negative result from a Covid test - which can be a lateral flow or PCR test - taken in the 24 hours before departure.

The lifting of the ban was confirmed yesterday by French minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, who announced that a decree changing the rules would be published today, with the easing of restrictions taking immediate effect from that point.

Although Mr Lemoyne didn’t provide any timings for the change, The Independent’s travel correspondent, Simon Calder, arrived in France at 4am this morning and was allowed through border control without issue.

The lifting of the travel ban precedes strict new vaccine passport rules, which are being introduced in France from 17 January.

From Monday, visitors will need to have been fully vaccinated - including a booster jab if their second dose was administered more than seven months prior - in order to access most indoor venues.

Follow the latest updates below:

Key points

  • French travel ban lifts today

  • France to introduce strict vaccine passport rules

  • Netherlands eases lockdown restrictions from tomorrow

Netherlands set to ease Omicron lockdown on Saturday

09:00 , Lucy Thackray

The Netherlands will ease its strict lockdown from Saturday, local media channels are reporting, subject to government talks later today.

Non-essential stores, hairdressers and gyms will be able to open from 15 January, with a cap on customer numbers, reported broadcasters NOS and RTL, citing government sources.

Students will also be allowed back to colleges and universities - but bars, restaurants, museums and other attractions are expected to remain closed.

The plans are set to be finalised by ministers on Friday.

Netherlands set to ease Omicron lockdown on Saturday

What it’s like to be the first British tourist back in France

08:21 , Helen Coffey

As soon as it was announced that the French border would be opening back up to British travellers, The Independent’s travel correspondent, Simon Calder, wasted no time in crossing the Channel.

Despite no official time for the lifting of the UK travel ban having been released, Simon boldly departed on the 11pm DFDS ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe yesterday evening, due to arrive in France at 4am this morning.

Armed with his passport, a signed “sworn statement” and his passenger arrival form, Simon boarded the four-hour sailing as the only foot passenger and hoped for the best.

As it turned out, he was let into France without issue - confirming that the ban has already been lifted for those travelling from the UK.

“Besides breathing in the frosty city air, my main concern is to keep my phone on life support and roaming data topped up so that anyone from bar owners to museum staff can scan the QR code that unlocks the capital,” he said, writing from a Parisian cafe this morning.

“This is France, but not quite as we know it.”

Read the full story:

What it’s like to be the first British tourist back in France

08:04 , Helen Coffey

Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s travel liveblog. We’ll be bringing you all the latest news and updates throughout the day.

Two Ryanair planes narrowly avoided crash, investigation finds

Thursday 13 January 2022 17:06 , Lucy Thackray

Two Ryanair planes had a near miss at Malaga airport two years ago, an investigation has concluded, almost colliding in what investigators have called a “serious incident”.

The official investigation by Spain’s civil aviation authority yesterday revealed that an air traffic controller at the Andalucia airport had given one Ryanair flight permission to land on a runway from which another Ryanair flight had been given permission to take off.

The distance between the two Boeing 737s was, at its closest, 520 metres - 16 per cent of the minimum recommended safety margin, which was the length of the runway (3,200 metres).

Two Ryanair planes narrowly avoided crash, investigation finds

Ski instructor bookings forecast to rise by 300%

Thursday 13 January 2022 15:59 , Lucy Thackray

Ski and snowboard instructor marketplace Maison Sport is forecasting a 300 per cent rise in instructor bookings over the next two weeks, compared with the previous period.

The company already saw a record day of bookings on Wednesday of this week, as anticipation grew around the prospect of France reopening.

Now the announcement has been made, it expects an “unprecendented surge” of demand for instructors.

Founder and CEO Nick Robinson says: “This is more welcome news at long last for the industry, particularly for the many local instructors who have been incredibly frustrated by the protracted lifting of the border restrictions. Morzine has been particularly affected, with large numbers of instructors facing the prospect of no bookings for the next few weeks.

“It may be a case of from rags to riches for many instructors now as we expect an unprecedented surge of bookings from now until the end of the season, as the majority of customers have been holding off as they waited for this news before confirming lessons.

“With so much great availability in late winter, after a slow December, we expect the next two weeks to be the biggest in our company’s history, with a 300 per cent increase in bookings anticipated.”

Cyprus trips made slightly cheaper as antigen tests allowed

Thursday 13 January 2022 15:34 , Lucy Thackray

Authorities in Cyprus have announced that either antigen or PCR tests will be accepted for visitors’ pre-travel Covid tests, meaning slightly lower testing costs for holidaymakers.

The change in rules comes in tomorrow morning.

“Passengers aged 12 years old and over who arrive in Cyprus as of 14 January at 5am local time will have the option of taking a PCR test carried out up to 72 hours before their departure or an antigen rapid test carried out up to 24 hours before their departure,” said the country’s Transport, Communications and Works Ministry on Wednesday.

All arrivals 12 and over must still take a PCR test upon arrival at Cyprus’ airports, at their own expense, regardless of vaccination status.

Travellers who are yet to have a booster jab must also take a further PCR test 72 hours after arrival.

What is changing for France’s vaccine passports?

Thursday 13 January 2022 14:41 , Lucy Thackray

One day after most Britons will be allowed back into France, the country’s rules are set to change around proof of vaccination and entry to venues.

On 6 January, the French government voted in plans to convert its health pass (pass sanitaire) to a vaccine pass (pass vaccinal) - meaning that full vaccination will be required to access public spaces such as restaurants, bars and public transport.

Until now, France’s TousAntiCovid app could be used by people who were not fully vaccinated - displaying a recent negative test result instead of vaccine proof - but as of Saturday, it will only work for fully jabbed visitors.

Meanwhile, from 15 January, everyone over the age of 18 must have received a booster to still be considered “fully” vaccinated in France.

There will be two different vaccine passes: Mobilité (for travel) and Activité (for access to venues such as restaurants and museums).

Read the full story:

What are the new rules for UK travel to France?

RAF pilot to fire space rocket from Virgin jumbo jet later today

Thursday 13 January 2022 13:53 , Lucy Thackray

A Virgin Orbit space rocket will be launched from a Virgin Atlantic plane over the Pacific Ocean today, flown by an experienced RAF pilot.

Matthew “Stanny” Stannard will take off at around 12.30pm Pacific Time (8.30pm GMT) on a mission to launch the 70ft “space booster”.

The modified Boeing 747-400 - a former Virgin Atlantic passenger jet named Cosmic Girl - will fly out over the Pacific with the rocket attached under its left wing.

About an hour into the flight, the pilot will drop the rocket from about 35,000ft - at which point its first engine will ignite, taking it on a climb into orbit.

Read the full story:

RAF pilot to launch space rocket from Virgin Atlantic jet

Do not go directly to jail: tips on filling out the French travel forms

Thursday 13 January 2022 13:19 , Simon Calder

While British travellers and the industry wait to find out when admission to France will be possible, these are the two documents that UK visitors will need to complete.

The first is the passenger arrival form. When you complete this, note that the UK is Royaume-Uni on the drop-down menu.

There is a “zipcode” requirement for your birthplace – unless you were born in France, type 999.

When it asks, “What type of accommodation will you be staying in?” select “Individual accommodation”. Do not select “Jail”, one of the other options on the drop-down menu.

You will need to give an approximate location for where you are staying, for which a zipcode is required. For example, tap 75 into the drop-down menu for Paris and choose the appropriate option for the arrondissement where you will stay.

The document generated when you complete the form must be accompanied by your “sworn undertaking to comply with rules for entry” – asserting that you have not been suffering from coronavirus symptoms and “have no knowledge of having been in contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19 during the last 14 days”.

Severe delays on Southeastern and Thameslink services after freight train derailed

Thursday 13 January 2022 12:57 , Helen Coffey

Passengers experienced severe delays on Southeastern Railway and Thameslink services this morning after the derailment of a freight train at Hoo Junction.

According to Network Rail, “One wheel has come off the rails and some wagons are blocking the down line”.

The body responsible for Britain’s rail infrastructure tweeted early this morning: “Our teams have sourced a rescue locomotive and driver who should be on site shortly. Then they will attach to the wagons blocking passenger trains and pull them clear and back into the sidings.”

Read the full story:

Severe delays on Southeastern and Thameslink services after freight train derailed

When exactly does France ban end and how soon will transport resume?

Thursday 13 January 2022 11:49 , Simon Calder

In terms of the timing of the border reopening, the minister’s wording was simply: “The decree will be published tomorrow [Friday] morning, with immediate entry into force.” The Independent is urgently seeking clarification.

Given the absence of British visitors to France, anyone seeking a city break to Paris or Nice, or a ski trip to the French Alps, over the coming weekend will find a dearth of crowds – and plenty of accommodation availability.

While ferry firms, Eurotunnel shuttles (carrying cars from Folkestone to Calais) and Eurostar trains (carrying passengers from London to Paris) are running to schedule, with plenty of space available, airlines are not able to ramp up so quickly.

Jet2 says its ski flights to France will begin again on 22 January, one week after the ban is lifted.

Meanwhile ferry operators are reporting “phones red hot” as travellers book trips to France.

Ask Simon Calder your travel questions

Thursday 13 January 2022 11:25 , Lucy Thackray

As France lifts its travel ban on Brits - but along with Austria and Germany, ups its use of vaccine passports for entry to venues - the way we travel is once again changing.

Luckily The Independent’s travel expert Simon Calder is on the case - and will be on hand to reassure readers on everything from fears around other rogue travel bans to whether your proof of vaccination will get you into that holiday restaurant.

To ask Simon your travel questions, simply sign up to comment on the article below - if you haven’t left a question before, you’ll need to register first.

Read more here:

Travel expert Simon Calder to answer your latest questions live at 4pm

Jet2 resumes ski flights to France

Thursday 13 January 2022 10:55 , Lucy Thackray

Jet2 has announced that it will resume flights to Lyon, Chambery and Grenoble - from where holidaymakers can access a number of French ski resorts - from 22 January.

The budget airline will also resume flights and city breaks to Paris from 11 February.

Several promotions have also been launched to coincide with France’s lifting of the UK travel ban, with discounts of 10 per cent on some flights, and 50 per cent on some city-break packages (for bookings made before 7 February).

The airline’s CEO, Steve Heapy, says: “This is the positive news that skiers and snowboarders have been looking forward to, and the spike in bookings for ski flights has been both sharp and immediate.

“The snow conditions in the French Alps are said to be excellent, meaning our customers are jumping at the chance to get back on the slopes.

“We know how much our customers want to get back to the French Alps and we are very pleased to be flying them there again from next weekend onwards.

“This is yet more great news for the travel industry and further reinforces our already strong belief that 2022 is a year to look forward to with real confidence.”

Jet2 said bookings remain under pressure for the winter season (Anna Gowthorpe/PA) (PA Archive)
Jet2 said bookings remain under pressure for the winter season (Anna Gowthorpe/PA) (PA Archive)

‘I can only hope that we have seen the last border closure’: industry reacts to France update

Thursday 13 January 2022 10:30 , Simon Calder

Leading travel figures have welcomed the end of the French travel ban on British visitors.

The border will open some time on Friday 14 January, ministers have announced, almost four weeks after British visitors were barred because of concerns over the Omicron variant.

Julia Simpson, president of the World Travel and Tourism Council, said: “Once a variant is endemic, closing borders is pointless and only damages livelihoods - especially in travel and tourism, one of the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic.”

Chief executive of Brittany Ferries, Christophe Mathieu, said: “This news comes as a great relief and I can only hope that we have seen the last border closure of this Covid crisis.”

Read the full story:

‘It’s a great relief’: Travel industry welcomes reopening of French borders

What are the new rules for travel to France?

Thursday 13 January 2022 09:57 , Simon Calder

With substantial changes to France’s border rules set for tomorrow morning, it can be tricky to keep track of the latest vaccination, testing and admin requirements - not to mention the timing of it all.

French travel is back on for the vaccinated, a French government minister confirmed this morning, with a decree set to be published tomorrow morning.

The changes will go into immediate effect, with slightly tighter testing rules in place for travellers.

Here’s everything you need to know about the change in rules:

What are the new rules for UK travel to France?

Lateral flow tests allowed for entry to France

Thursday 13 January 2022 09:44 , Lucy Thackray

When France lifts its travel ban on the UK tomorrow, British travellers will be able to enter the country by presenting either a negative lateral flow (antigen) or a PCR test before departure.

This must be privately booked and paid for - you may not use free NHS tests for travel purposes.

You must also fill in France’s online health screening form ahead of travel and upload the QR codes from your NHS Covid Pass to France’s TousAntiCovid app for entry to most venues.

Unvaccinated Brits remain banned from France

Thursday 13 January 2022 09:25 , Lucy Thackray

The French government has confirmed that it will lift its strict travel ban on the UK from tomorrow morning - but only for fully vaccinated travellers.

Vaccinated Britons with a negative test result taken within the previous 24 hours will be able to enter France with no need to quarantine.

However, no rules will change for unvaccinated travellers, who must still have a “compelling reason” to enter, as per the 18 December rule change.

The only exceptions are children aged 11 and under, who do not need to be vaccinated nor take a test in order to enter France.

All other unvaccinated visitors who meet the French government’s criteria for entry must provide a negative Covid test (PCR or antigen taken within the 24 hours before travel) and self-isolate for 48 hours upon arrival, emerging only with a second negative test result.

Ministers have not yet released an exact time for the rule change, only announcing that the decree will be published tomorrow morning and come into effect immediately from that point.

Here’s everything we know so far:

France finally lifts ban on UK travellers

France to open to UK travellers from tomorrow

Thursday 13 January 2022 09:11 , Lucy Thackray

France will reopen its borders to fully vaccinated UK holidaymakers from tomorrow, Friday 14 January, French minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne has confirmed.

“We are relaxing the entry conditions to France from the UK for vaccinated travellers,” tweeted Lemoyne, the minister delegate for tourism.

“End of compelling reasons and isolation on arrival”.

He added that a negative test taken no more than 24 hours before departure would be required for entry.

The official decree will be published tomorrow morning, said Mr Lemonye, and the relaxed rules will take immediate effect from that point.

Since 18 December 2021, only those with a slim selection of “compelling reasons” have been able to enter France from the UK, with leisure travel off limits to Brits.

The vaccine passport rules for accessing domestic venues when in France change on Saturday; holidaymakers are advised to check the latest restrictions before travel.

Why has the French ban continued for so long?

Thursday 13 January 2022 08:56 , Lucy Thackray

Four weeks after France announced it was closing its borders to arrivals from the UK, the travel ban remains in place. Simon Calder, travel correspondent of The Independent, offers his thoughts on why.

“The ban was brought in ostensibly because of concern about the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. Since the start of the year, France has had a rate of new Covid infections roughly twice as high as the UK – almost all of them attributable to Omicron.

“The ban is clearly both futile and damaging – emotionally to many people deprived of family visits and holidays, and economically to ferry, train and air operators as well as the French tourism industry. So why would France continue with the pointless closure of its frontiers?

“The kindest explanation is of fears that large numbers of British visitors testing positive for coronavirus would add to the pressure on the French health service.

“But politics provides more plausible explanations – in particular the need leaders feel to look tough by imposing travel bans. Some say the ban was a political response to the UK’s bizarre decision in July 2021 to create a special ‘amber plus’ category in coronavirus travel rules, requiring all arrivals from France to quarantine.

“British ministers ascribed that ban to a ‘variant of concern’ prevalent on the French island of Réunion, but have never fully explained why the isle itself was exempted from the category.

“In addition, opening frontiers to Brits while closing down big events in France and making people work from home is unlikely to prove popular – except among people and businesses who benefit directly from UK tourism.

“But the continuation of a pointless travel ban may simply be yet another example of the tendency of governments to be very swift to impose restrictions yet to be very slow to ease them.”

For Simon’s latest thoughts on the France travel situation, listen to his podcast here:

January 12th - What is going on with France? | Simon Calder's Independent Travel Podcast

Bargain ski trips on sale for Saturday – but not to France

Thursday 13 January 2022 08:30 , Simon Calder

Ski operators do not expect the French ban to be lifted in time for the coming weekend’s departures, research by The Independent indicates.

Crystal Ski, part of the Tui Group, is selling trips to Austria, Bulgaria and Italy.

A week’s holiday to Mayrhofen in Austria, including flights from Birmingham to Innsbruck, transfers and B&B accommodation, is on offer for £317. Covid tests will add around £100 to the cost.

Inghams’ first departure to France is scheduled for Saturday 22 January – with the lowest cost option being a week in La Plagne in the French Alps for £329, including flights from Gatwick, transfers and accommodation.

Good morning

Thursday 13 January 2022 07:35 , Lucy Thackray

Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s travel liveblog, where we’ll be posting all the latest news and updates.

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