French minister says Britain’s strict rules insisting double-jabbed arrivals must isolate are ‘excessive’ – and insists the Beta variant is under control in his country

  • Clement Beaune insisted the Beta variant was under control in France 
  • He said UK measures are ‘not entirely based on scientific foundations’
  • Strict rules on arrivals in the UK from France were branded ‘excessive’

Strict rules on arrivals in the UK from France were branded ‘excessive’ by a French minister yesterday amid a furious Whitehall row about who took the controversial decision.

Clement Beaune said the UK’s decision to insist double-jabbed travellers must isolate was not based on scientific evidence.

And he insisted the Beta variant – blamed for the last-minute U-turn on relaxing quarantine for the fully vaccinated – was under control in France.

European affairs minister Mr Beaune told French channel BFM TV: ‘It seems to us that the measures taken by the UK are not entirely based on scientific foundations. We find them excessive.

‘This decision is based on the circulation of the Beta variant, the South African variant, which is in reality now well under control.’

It has been claimed that Britain’s decision to exclude France from the new relaxed rules for double-jabbed arrivals from amber list countries had been based on figures including those from a remote French overseas territory where the Beta variant is more common.

The Indian Ocean island of Reunion recorded 1,450 cases of Covid-19 between July 3 and 9, of which 91 per cent were the Beta and Gamma variants.

The Beta variant has accounted for about 5 per cent of cases in mainland France over recent months, according to Downing Street, but it is feared to be more resistant to vaccines. 

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said yesterday: ‘The AstraZeneca vaccine appears to be less effective against the Beta variant, that’s why we need to be very cautious about that.

‘What the data publicly available in France shows, and this data does not include Reunion, is that over the past three months on average the Beta variant accounts for around 5 per cent of cases. And that’s a relatively high prevalence which potentially poses a risk to the UK and that’s why it was right to move swiftly.’

Clement Beaune said the UK’s decision to insist double-jabbed travellers must isolate was not based on scientific evidence

It comes as the US yesterday upgraded the UK to the highest risk level and warned Americans not to travel here.

Washington informed citizens yesterday there is a ‘very high level of Covid-19’ in Britain.

Meanwhile, a blame game continues in the UK Government over which minister decided late on Friday to change the rules for France, ruining thousands of Britons’ trips and bringing fresh anguish to the struggling travel industry.

It is thought that Boris Johnson, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and Health Secretary Sajid Javid were behind the move.

The Department of Health is said to have overreacted to Covid figures in France. On Sunday another 12,532 cases were reported, compared with 48,161 in the UK.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is thought not to have been invited to the meeting at which France was effectively placed in a new ‘amber-plus’ category, just hours after the review of the traffic light system was announced.

A Whitehall source described the decision-making process as ‘shambolic’. Mark Tanzer, chief executive of Abta, the UK’s largest travel association, said: ‘There’s a lack of transparency around how decisions are being made’, adding: ‘With France there was no indication about the change of direction… And that’s likely to impair consumer confidence to book until they see this settling down into a much more predictable system.’

The Department of Health said last night: ‘The Joint Biosecurity Centre has assessed that France is a high-risk Covid-19 destination due to the circulation of variants of concern, most notably the Beta variant, which presents the greatest risk for UK vaccine escape.’

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