Britain is facing a diplomatic backlash from France over “excessive” quarantine restrictions after the foreign secretary admitted that they were introduced because of high cases of a coronavirus strain on an island nearly 6,000 miles away, reports The Times.
France was suddenly placed under a new amber-plus category of quarantine restrictions this month, requiring all holidaymakers in the country to isolate for up to ten days on their return to England. France has branded the decision excessive, discriminatory and “scientifically unfounded”.
Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, said this morning that the decision had been taken because of the prevalence of the Beta variant in Réunion, a French overseas territory off the coast of Africa.
Scientists are concerned that the Beta variant is more resistant to vaccines, particularly the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab given to millions of Britons. Raab told Today on BBC Radio 4: “The evidence presented on which the original decision was taken was based on the prevalence of the so-called Beta variant, in particular on the Réunion bit of France.”
When it was pointed out that Réunion was a long way from mainland France, Raab said: “It’s not the distance that matters, it’s the ease of travel between different component parts of every individual country.”
He subsequently clarified that the decision had also reflected the prevalence of the variant in northern France.
The decision to put France on the amber-plus list on July 16th was hugely contentious. It was taken during a meeting between Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid, the health secretary. Raab and Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, were not present.
The comments from Raab prompted a backlash from the travel industry. A spokesman for Brittany Ferries said: “This is madness. It would be like France hammering British holidaymakers due to a Covid outbreak on the Falkland Islands. It makes you wonder if those in the centre of power have access to an atlas or a geography GCSE between them.”