France

Brit Thrown off Eurostar by Armed French Police for Wearing “Wrong Type of Mask”

A British man travelling back to England from France on Eurostar on Thursday was surrounded by armed French police and left stranded in Lille after being reported by the service’s manager for wearing the “wrong type of mask”. MailOnline has the story.

Eurostar requires all passengers to wear a mask onboard but a spokesman today said that there were no rules specifying what kind of masks must be worn. 

Other passengers on the service said that the female manager of the train took a dislike to the man after an exchange of words, and ordered the service to stop so he could be arrested.   

“I’ve done nothing wrong and respect all Coronavirus rules – this is absolutely outrageous,” he said, as he was led away in front of other stunned passengers on Thursday afternoon. …

Other passengers then complained about the unscheduled, unannounced stop in Lille that caused a 15 minutes delay.

“Why is Eurostar stopping its trains, and delaying hundreds of passengers, because of a petty dispute over one man’s mask?” said one.

The female Eurostar manager, who remained on the train after the man was taken into custody, confirmed she had reported him for wearing the “wrong type of mask” for preventing the spread of Coronavirus. …

Within minutes of departure [from Paris] the Eurostar manager was involved in a heated argument with the man.

She accused him of not complying with health and safety regulations, and said the black mask he was wearing was not appropriate.

All Eurostar passengers are expected to wear masks at all times, except for when they are eating or drinking.

There was a buffet on the train, and many of the passengers in Coach 13 – where the man was sitting alone by a window in a two-seat row – had removed their masks completely as they had sandwiches and drinks with them.

Despite this, the manager berated the man, and then used a radio to summon another member of staff. …

The businessman… replaced his black mask with a standard blue one provided by another passenger. He apologised, and appeared to have escaped any further action.

But when the train got to Lille it made an unscheduled stop, and three armed officers boarded, while the others waiting on the platform. …

[Another passenger said:] “The Eurostar woman was telling the police what to do, and insisting that the poor guy should be removed, like he was some kind of criminal.

“He was actually being very reasonable, and not swearing or acting in any kind of disruptive way at all – everybody else was on his side, but he was marched off and we didn’t see him again.”

Worth reading in full.

Footage of the Protests in Paris Last Saturday

A filmmaker based in France has sent us some highly professional footage she recorded at last Saturday’s anti-Health Pass protest in Paris, featuring lots of vox pops with the protestors. The reaction of the French riot police to the peaceful protestors is extremely aggressive, reminiscent of the Met’s Territorial Support Group. Hats off to these brave men and women standing up for their civil liberties.

Video from odysee.

France No Longer ‘Amber-Plus’ and Seven Countries Added to Green List

Good news for holidaymakers. France has been removed from the ‘amber-plus’ list and seven countries have been added to the green list, bringing the total up to 36. BBC News has more.

France will not be on England’s amber-plus list from 04:00 BST on Sunday, meaning fully vaccinated arrivals will no longer have to quarantine.

The country was put on the list last month, amid concerns about the Beta variant, which scientists believe may be more resistant to vaccines.

At the same time, seven countries have been added to the green list for travel including Germany, Austria and Norway.

The transport secretary said the country “must continue to be cautious”.

Despite prior speculation, Spain will remain on the amber list, enabling travellers who are fully vaccinated to continue to enjoy a quarantine-free return.

However, travellers arriving in the UK from Spain are now advised to take a PCR test – rather than the cheaper lateral flow tests – for the mandatory pre-departure test as a “precaution against the increased prevalence of the virus and variants in the country”.

There were already 29 countries or territories on the green list, bringing the total to 36.

Will this be enough to save the summer? Travel industry bosses don’t think so.

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of the industry body Airlines U.K., said the announcement was “another missed opportunity” with U.K. travel opening up “far slower” than the rest of Europe.

Johan Lundgren, chief executive of EasyJet, said he was disappointed but the news provided “some reassurance” to customers – after days of uncertainty around which list countries would be on which list.

The Government must also fix the expensive testing regime, he added.

The U.K. was still a long way from a meaningful restart of international travel, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, Karen Dee said.

And Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA – the association of travel agents and tour operators – said the “snail’s pace” movement failed to capitalise on the success of the vaccination programme.

Worth reading in full.

A handy guide from MailOnline.

“You’d Have to be Crackers to Book a Holiday”

A raging battle has erupted in the Cabinet over plans for a danger list of countries that could see destinations like Spain and Italy suddenly move to red. MailOnline has more.

The plans for a new ‘amber watch list’ sparked outrage in Whitehall as some ministers believe it could ruin the holiday hopes of millions of Britons.

The idea, which was agreed in principle this week, would see holidaymakers warned that while they are abroad certain amber countries could go straight on to the red list.

This would leave them facing compulsory hotel quarantine on their return, at a cost of £1,750 a head.

Spain and Italy both featured in talks about countries that could be put into the new category – as soon as next week – amid fears about the Beta variant, which first emerged in South Africa.

Senior ministers, including Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, are said to have reservations about imposing further disruption on the beleaguered travel sector.

Mr Shapps urged people to “ignore speculation” ahead of decisions next week. But behind the scenes a battle is raging.

One Whitehall source said: “You would have to be crackers to book a holiday to a place knowing that it could go on to the red list at any moment.

“If you have already booked to go there you are going to spend your whole holiday worrying whether you are going to have to make a dash to the airport to get home.

“The decision next week will basically be in place for August. It is peak holiday season – are we really going to cause that much disruption to this many people?”

Worth reading in full.

Unvaccinated French Pupils Will Be Sent Home if Classmate Tests Positive for Covid

As if plans to separate vaccinated and unvaccinated citizens in France didn’t already go far enough, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer has announced that children as young as 12 who have not been vaccinated will be booted out of school if a classmate tests positive for Covid while those who have been ‘jabbed’ will be allowed to stay. Connexion has the story.

Vaccinated students will continue to go to school in person if a Covid case is discovered in their class while unvaccinated students will have to study from home for seven days, Blanquer said [on Wednesday].

The minister was discussing new health rules to be put in place in schools from September.

This rule will apply to students aged 12 and over, who are currently eligible for Covid vaccines. 

Primary schools will follow the same rules as in the last school year, meaning if a Covid case is detected in a class all students in the class will then study from home for seven days. 

However, Mr Blanquer added that he was “fairly sure that there would be less disruption in the coming school year”.

In order to boost vaccination rates among secondary school students 6,000-7,000 vaccination centres will be opened from September “in or next to” schools, the Education Minister added.

Four health scenarios (“Green”, “Yellow”, “Orange” and “Red”) have also been planned for the coming academic year, depending on the health situation.

“In the lightest [Green] scenario there will be no masks in primary schools – but I fear that this will not be the case in September,” Mr Blanquer said.

The Education Ministry website says that, at the Green level, masks would still be required indoors for secondary school pupils in colleges and lycées.

At the Yellow level, primary school children would also have to wear masks indoors, and at the Orange and Red levels students of all ages would have to wear masks indoors and outdoors. …

The Health Ministry rejected the idea of using health passes to allow entry into schools for staff and students who are eligible for vaccines.

It also rejected the idea of making vaccination mandatory for teachers [*]for the moment[*].

Worth reading in full.

Holidays Ruined for Millions of Brits if Spain and Greece are Forced on to “Amber Plus” List

Reports suggest that the Government is considering demoting both Spain and Greece to the “Amber Plus” List alongside France due to fears over Covid variants, a decision that could ruin the holiday plans of millions of Brits – and not for the first time. MailOnline has the story.

The list effectively strips back ‘Freedom Day’ rules, which allow [fully vaccinated] holidaymakers to return from “Amber List” countries without having to face a mandatory period of self-isolation.

But, just days before the new rules were to be announced, the Government threw tens of thousands of holidays into doubt by revealing that double-jabbed Britons returning from France would still have to quarantine.

Now Greece and Spain, both of which are currently on the Amber List, could follow France onto the so-called Amber Plus List.

But, according to figures released by Labour, that could leave an estimated 5,857,558 people facing the prospect of last-minute quarantine requirements – plunging the holidays into “chaos once more”. 

The Government introduced an exemption for the requirement to isolate at home for 10 days for fully-vaccinated holidaymakers returning from countries on the amber list.

But ministers removed the exemption for France amid concerns over the Beta variant, creating what critics call an Amber Plus designation on the traffic light system for foreign travel.

There has been speculation that Greece and Spain could face the same measures as France, though the Government has not confirmed this. …

The opposition estimated the number of people to have booked holidays to those three nations by looking at official data for past travel and adjusting for lower willingness to travel during the pandemic by comparing with surveys.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “The travel list allocations have not changed for Spain or Greece.

“We are closely monitoring the data and will take swift action on travel list allocations and international travel requirements should the data show that countries’ risk to England has changed.”

It comes as holidaymakers faced up to three-hour queues through passport control at Heathrow Airport yesterday after e-gates broke down and the ‘pingdemic’ left just one official at the desks, according to frustrated passengers.

Worth reading in full.

Thousands March Against Vaccine Passports in France

Thousands have taken to the streets in France to protest against President Emmanuel Macron’s extreme plans to force all health workers to get vaccinated against Covid and to prevent the unvaccinated from visiting restaurants, shopping malls and hospitals, and from using trains and planes. Unmoved by these demonstrations, French Prime Minister Jean Castex says people should be “convinced” to take the vaccine “at all costs”. Reuters has the story.

Macron this week announced sweeping measures to fight a rapid surge in coronavirus infections, which protesters say infringe the freedom of choice of those who do not want the vaccination.

The measures had already prompted demonstrations earlier this week, forcing police to use tear gas to disperse protesters.

“Everyone is sovereign in his own body. In no way does a president of the Republic have the right to decide on my individual health,” said one protester in Paris who identified herself as Chrystelle.

Marches, which also took place in France’s largest cities such as Marseille, Lyon and Lille as well as many smaller centres, also included “yellow vest” protesters seeking to revive the anti-Government movement curbed by coronavirus lockdowns.

Visiting a centre in Anglet in southwestern France, Prime Minister Jean Castex said vaccination, which is not mandatory for the general public for now, is the only way to fight the virus.

“I hear the reluctance that arises but I think that we must at all costs convince all our fellow citizens to be vaccinated, it is the best way to cope to this health crisis,” Castex said.

Despite the strength of the protests, an Ipsos-Sopra Steria poll released on Friday found more than 60% of French people agree with mandatory vaccination for health workers, as well as a requirement for a health pass in some public places.

Worth reading in full.

Emmanuel Macron Mandates Covid Vaccination for All French Health Workers and Introduces Vaccine Passports

Emmanuel Macron has announced that all French health workers face mandatory Covid vaccination and that vaccine passports will be required in restaurants, shopping malls and hospitals, and on trains and planes, effectively cutting off unvaccinated French people from their daily lives. Cancelling all large events which were set to take place in the coming month, the President also warned that ALL French citizens could face mandatory vaccination later this year.

To get a vaccine passport, you have to be fully vaccinated, have a fresh negative test or have recently recovered from the virus. In his address, Macron said that France will start charging for some Covid tests, which up to now have been free, giving many citizens little choice but to get vaccinated. Sky News has more.

In a televised address, France’s President said all health care workers, nursing home workers and anyone who cares for the elderly or unwell at home must have coronavirus vaccines by September 15th.

Those who fail to do so could face sanctions or fines.

The President also announced anyone who wants to go to a restaurant, shopping centre or several other public places will need a Covid pass, which can only be given to people who have been fully vaccinated, have a fresh negative test or have recently recovered from the virus.

The additional restrictions come as the country continues to battle a resurgence of cases driven mainly by the Delta variant.

Some 40% of France’s population is fully vaccinated but there are pockets of vaccine scepticism.

“The country is facing a strong resumption of the epidemic touching all our territory,” Mr Macron said. …

He said the French Government would declare a medical state of emergency again starting on Tuesday, which allows him more scope to impose virus restrictions. …

In France, vaccines are widely available for anyone 12 and over, but take-up slowed in recent weeks because of vaccine hesitancy, a sense that the virus is no longer a threat, and because some people decided to put off their jabs until after summer holidays.

We are not that far behind this state of affairs in England, where care home workers face mandatory vaccination and large indoor venues have been urged to require vaccine passports.

The Sky News report is worth reading in full.

France Easing Lockdown Restrictions Earlier Than Expected

France is bringing forward the lifting of a nationwide curfew by 10 days amid falling numbers of daily positive Covid tests. Guidelines on mask-wearing are also expected to be eased sooner than expected. The MailOnline has the story.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Jean Castex told a news conference on Wednesday that the night-time curfew would now end from June 20th, and that face masks would soon no longer be required outdoors.

After restaurants, bars and cafes were allowed last week to reopen indoors for the first time in seven months, Castex said life in France was at last starting to return to normal.

“We’re on the right track – let’s keep up our efforts,” Castex said. “The health situation is improving faster than we had anticipated, everywhere in mainland France.” …

The [Delta] variant accounts for the bulk of new infections in Britain, but French Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Tuesday it only represented 2-4% of confirmed cases in France…

Castex said pressure on French hospitals had decreased significantly. The number of people in intensive care units was down by 116 to 1,952 on Tuesday, according to health ministry data.

France’s seven-day moving average of new cases, which was above 40,000 two months ago, stood at 3,500 on Tuesday. French health experts say the pandemic can be considered under control if the rate is below 5,000.

Worth reading in full.

France Will “Welcome” British Tourists from June 9th – but with a Long List of Terms and Conditions

“Now for some good news,” says the MailOnline, as restrictions on British travel into France will ease from June 9th. But it’s not all roses. Brits who aren’t fully vaccinated will need a “compelling reason” to visit the country and will be required to quarantine for seven days if granted entry. The MailOnline has more.

Tourists will have to use the French Government’s “Pass Sanitaire” – a digital document to which proof of negative test or vaccination can be uploaded.

The Pass Sanitaire is currently required for all travellers over the age of 11 – however the French Government says that a negative test will be accepted for children in place of vaccination without specifying an age from which this applies.  

That will be a blow for any families wishing to head for sunnier climes in France because older children in their teens and early 20s are unlikely to receive both doses of a vaccine before the end of summer. 

And there are currently no plans to vaccinate U.K. teenagers, with the British Government prioritising second doses for more vulnerable age groups.

The border opening on June 9th will also allow E.U. passport holders in without any proof of testing at all. 

The relaxation in requirements comes as Britain itself clamps down on travel abroad, with the removal of Portugal from the Green List of approved destinations yesterday unleashing chaos and a wave of cancelled bookings.

France is on the U.K. Amber List, meaning that Britons must quarantine for 10 days on their return and take two Covid tests, as well as testing negative before they depart for France. 

The  British list of approved destinations is due to be reviewed every three weeks.

Worth reading in full.

Photo Credit: The Paris Photographer.