'This is Madness': UK Accused of 'Discrimination' After Keeping France on 'Amber Plus' List
05:37 GMT 30.07.2021 (Updated: 06:07 GMT 30.07.2021)
© AP Photo / Miroslav LelasIn this Friday, Aug. 21, 2021 file photo, a passenger inspects the departures timetable at the international airport in Split, Croatia
© AP Photo / Miroslav Lelas
Earlier this month, the UK's Department for Health and Social Care said that France had been identified as a "high-risk COVID-19 destination" due to levels of the Beta variant, stressing that the government's top priority is to halt the spread of the coronavirus, "including protecting our borders from the threat of variants".
France's European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune has described the UK's move to scrap quarantine requirements for all fully vaccinated travellers arriving from Europe except France as "incomprehensible".
Earlier this month, the British government announced that from 19 July onwards, UK residents who have received two COVID-19 shots won't need to isolate for ten days upon their return from Portugal, Greece, and a host of other so-called "amber list" countries.
France, however, was excluded from the list due to the rising number of COVID cases related to the Beta strain of the virus, which was first identified in South Africa and which is believed to be some 50% more transmittable that the original COVID-19 variant.
© REUTERS / HANNAH MCKAY Arriving passengers queue at UK Border Control at the Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport in London, Britain June 29, 2021
Arriving passengers queue at UK Border Control at the Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport in London, Britain June 29, 2021
© REUTERS / HANNAH MCKAY
"It is a decision that discriminates against the French because other Europeans, even countries that are in more difficult health situations because of the Delta variant or another variant, are not affected by this quarantine", Beaune said in an interview on French television on Thursday.
The minister added that "[...] on the scientific and health levels, there are no explanations for this decision", expressing hope that the move will be reviewed in the immediate future.
UK Transportation Minister Grant Shapps, for his part, made it clear that the government will not be able to review the decision until the end of next week because they need to see the data.
He spoke as British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the BBC that France-related restrictions for travellers had been announced in part because of the high rate of the Beta variant in Reunion, a French overseas territory in the Indian Ocean.
© REUTERS / YARA NARDIG20 foreign and development ministers meeting in Matera
G20 foreign and development ministers meeting in Matera
© REUTERS / YARA NARDI
When asked to comment on Reunion being located almost 6,000 miles away 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 also said he hoped France would be moved off the amber plus list as quickly as possible.
A spokesperson for the French shipping company Brittany Ferries reacted to the comments by saying, "this is madness" and arguing that "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 [The General Certificate of Secondary Education] between them", the spokesperson added.
The remarks came after the UK's Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) upheld the decision on France, emphasising that protecting British borders from "the threat of [COVID] variants" remains one of the government's key priorities.
"As a precautionary measure to protect the gains made in the nation's vaccination programme, anyone arriving from France to England will continue to quarantine for ten days" as of 19 July, DHSC said in a statement earlier this month.