France closes borders to non-EU travellers
London, Jan. 30, 2021 (AltAfrica)-France is to close its borders to countries outside the European Union from Sunday, but has stopped short of imposing a new lockdown as the country continues to battle the spread of coronavirus.
Prime minister Jean Castex announced new measures on Friday, that will prohibit entry from non-EU countries “unless there are compelling reasons”, as he told France there was still a chance of avoiding another lockdown.
“We can still give ourselves a chance to avoid confinement,” he said at the Elysee Palace at the end of a Defence Council meeting.
He warned “the question of a containment is legitimately raised” due to the number of COVID-19 cases the country is dealing with, stressing that “the next few days will be decisive”
Mr Castex said police would increase their enforcement of an evening curfew and other rules already in place.
Infections remain high in France, despite recent rule tightening.
The new restrictions will affect the UK, now no longer in the EU, but its transport minister clarified on Twitter that the change would not impact hauliers transporting goods to or from the UK.
French PM Jean Castex has announced that France is to close its borders to all countries outside the EU from Sunday. However, I can confirm that this does NOT apply to hauliers, so trade will continue to flow smoothly.— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) January 29, 2021
Under the rule change starting on Sunday, all travel will be banned from outside the EU unless for vital reasons.
All arrivals from inside the EU will also now have to present a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test – with the exception of cross-border workers. This rule previously only applied to air and sea arrivals, not those arriving by road.
Aside from the new travel rules, the prime minister also said large, non-food shopping centres would close, while home-working rules would be reinforced.
He also pledged that police would crack down on secret parties and illegal restaurant openings.
“We want to do everything we can to avoid another lockdown. The coming days will be decisive. Let’s be very vigilant,” Mr Castex said.
France reported 820 new deaths on Friday, taking the total recorded nationally to 75,620. More than 27,000 people are in hospital with the virus – including more than 3,000 in intensive care.
Unlike many other European nations, France has resisted imposing a national lockdown to try to curb high infection rates after the festive period.
For now schools remain open across the country, but businesses like restaurants and bars have been closed with an overnight curfew enforced between 18:00 and 06:00.
Health Minister Olivier Veran warned this week that new more-transmissible variants of coronavirus were now “actively spreading” in France despite the current restrictions.
Friday’s announcement comes amid a growing row between the EU and vaccine companies about supply shortfalls.
French officials say they have given first doses to 1.45m people so far, but delivery shortages from Pfizer and Moderna are further slowing their rollout.
From Saturday, Germany will ban most travellers from countries hit hard by new variants. The countries are the UK, Ireland, Portugal, Brazil, South Africa, Lesotho and Eswatini.
The move is expected to last until 17 February.
Also from Saturday, the Czech Republic has banned non-essential entry into the country, again to try to curb the new variants.
Portugal on Thursday banned non-essential overseas travel by air, land or sea for its citizens for a fortnight.
Belgium on Wednesday banned non-essential trips out of the country until 1 March.
In contrast, Italy said on Friday it would move more areas into less-restrictive rules from Monday, despite health officials warning it was risky. No areas would be classified as “red”, which brings tough travel and business