United Kingdom

Covid France: Tourism chiefs blast Macron over ploy that could stop UK holidaymakers visiting

Furious tourism chiefs have blasted Emmanuel Macron's 'illogical' and 'economically stupid' ploy that could stop UK holidaymakers from visiting France this summer while costing his own country millions. 

The President sowed the seeds of doubt among tourism experts after he announced that Americans and Europeans could travel to France if they have been vaccinated or have proof of a negative test result - without specifying if Britons would be included in a continental jabs scheme.

Responding to Mr Macron's interview with CBS last night, British travel bosses slammed the President's 'incredibly disappointing' potential decision to cut off UK holidaymakers from the western European nation this summer.

Speaking to MailOnline, Dr Steven Freudmann, Chairman of the Institute of Travel & Tourism and former President of ABTA, pointed out that UK tourism is an incredible boon to the French economy, with statistics from 2017 showing that British holidaymakers spent more than £5billion while visiting.

He said 'it would be illogical if Mr Macron chose to spite us', arguing that it made 'no sense' to block Britons when the UK's own vaccination roll-out has been hugely successful, with more than 30 million people now jabbed. 

Though the European jabs drive could catch up with Britain 'in the coming weeks', the continent's rollout got off to a slow start plagued by delays and fearmongering spread by the French and German governments.

Dr Freudmann said: 'It would be incredibly disappointing for British holidaymakers and our travel companies if Mr Macron chose to open up his country only to Americans and Europeans, but not Brits.

'I can't help but think it would be frankly so stupid economically if he did that. British tourism is a major boon to the French economy, France is the number one destination in Europe for UK holidaymakers. People think it's Spain, and certainly that's number one for package holidays, but it's actually France in terms of travel.

'It's a no brainer, given it's so close and just 20 minutes across the Channel. I would hope that by Europeans he doesn't just mean people from the EU but us as well, given that we're still a part of Europe and were until recently part of the bloc. And given that we're so much further ahead in terms of having people vaccinated than other countries including France, it really wouldn't make any sense to cut off British holidaymakers, to punish them.'

He went on: 'I think it would be illogical if Mr Macron chose to spite us. The fact is, if Brits can't get to France this summer they will vote with their feet and they will go elsewhere. Other countries have welcomed us with open arms, it would be a bigger loss to France than to us.'

It comes as Mr Macron prepares to impose tough entry restrictions on travellers from Argentina, Chile, South Africa and Brazil, while the UK placed India on its own red list amid fears of the so-called Indian variant.  

The French President said his government was working on a certificate for travel between European countries

He told CBS News: 'We are building a certificate to facilitate travel after these restrictions between the different European countries with testing and vaccination.' Pictured: Paris in February

Mr Macron told CBS: 'We are building a certificate to facilitate travel after these restrictions between the different European countries with testing and vaccination.'

He said: 'We will progressively lift the restrictions of the beginning of May, which means that we will organise in the summer time with our professionals in France for French European citizens, but as well for American citizens.

'So we are working hard to propose a very concrete solution, especially for US citizens who are vaccinated, so with a special pass, I would say.'

Mr Macron spoke as the government prepares to impose tough entry restrictions on travellers from four countries.

Argentina, Chile, South Africa and Brazil face new rules in hopes of keeping out especially contagious virus variants. 

The number of countries on the list could grow, France's foreign minister said Saturday.

The restrictions include mandatory 10-day quarantines with police checks to ensure people arriving in France observe the requirement.

Travellers from all four countries will be restricted to French nationals and their families, EU citizens and others with a permanent home in France.

France previously suspended all flights from Brazil. The suspension will be lifted next Saturday, after 10 days, and the new restrictions 'progressively' put in place by then.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the Brazil suspension will be lifted followed by 'drastic measures' for entering France from all four countries, plus Guiana.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (pictured) said the Brazil suspension will be lifted followed by 'drastic measures' for entering France from all four countries, plus Guiana

Mr Macron, summarising the French approach, said 'the plan is always to control the virus, to maximise the vaccination and to progressively lift the restrictions.'

France has been among the hardest hit European countries and is guarding against highly contageous variants, notably deciding to target four countries.

The four countries 'are the most dangerous in terms of the number of variants that exist and in the evolution of the pandemic in these countries,' Le Drian said.

But the list of countries subject to tougher border checks could be extended, he added.

Under the new restrictions, travellers must provide an address for where they plan to self-isolate for 10 days and police will visit and fine those who are found in violation.

France is also requiring more stringent testing for Covid.

Travellers must show proof of a negative PCR test taken less than 36 hours instead of 72 hours before they boarded a flight, or a negative antigen test less than 24 hours

France has reported the deaths of 100,00 people in the Covid-19 pandemic.

A variant first identified in Britain spread to Europe and is responsible for about 80 per cent of the virus cases in France.

The variants first seen in Brazil and South Africa make up less than 4 per cent of French infections, Health Minister Olivier Veran said last week.

Meanwhile the European coronavirus vaccination drive could catch up with Britain 'in the coming weeks' despite a slow start plagued by delays.   

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen confirmed this week that the EU has administered 100 million vaccine doses, adding this is a 'milestone we can be proud of'

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE INDIA VARIANT? 

Real name: B.1.617

When and where was it discovered? The variant was first reported as being of concern by the Indian government in late March. The first cases appear to date back to October 2020. 

What mutations does it have? The two main mutations are named E484Q and L452R, which scientists suspect can help it to transmit faster and to get past immune cells made in response to older variants. Those mutations are routinely not found on other variants monitored by Public Health England.

Europe's jab roll-out was condemned as 'unacceptably slow' by the World Health Organisation this month, with leaders blaming delays for 'prolonging the pandemic'.

The roll-out is now finally taking off as the EU faces soaring infection rates - with some even suggesting the mass vaccination drive could soon rival the UK.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said this week the EU has administered 100 million doses, adding this is a 'milestone we can be proud of.'

Some 27 million Europeans are fully vaccinated, meaning the bloc has edged closer to its goal of having vaccinated 70 per cent of the adult population by the end of the summer.

More than 32 million Britons have received the first dose of a vaccine, and nine million have been administered both jabs. 

But medics in Germany are currently administering around 200,000 more daily vaccines than the British, the Telegraph reported.

The country set a new national record on Wednesday with 738,501 jabs given in a day. This compared to 547,465 jabs administered in the UK.

Around 18.5 per cent of Germans have now received the first dose of a vaccine - an increase of 12 per cent from April 1. Some 6.4 per cent are fully vaccinated.

In France, more than 450,000 jabs are now regularly given out per day following the launch of 40 mass vaccination sites. 

However, the nation became the eighth to pass 100,000 Covid deaths this week, with an average of 300 people succumbing to the virus per day.  

Elsewhere, in Italy, medics have continued to consistently give around 200,000 jabs per day since the end of March. 

The vaccination drive got off to a slow start in Europe after the bloc failed to order enough doses and grant vaccinations swift approval.     

More than 32 million Britons have received the first dose of a vaccine, and nine million have been administered both jabs

At the start of April, only 10 per cent of Europe's population had received a first dose, compared to nearly 60 per cent of Britons.

However, despite a swift start, the roll-out of Covid vaccines to new patients in the UK has slowed to a crawl in comparison to how it performed in March.

An average of 91,000 people are getting their first dose each day now after the roll-out peaked at just over 500,000 per day in the middle of last month.

The roll-out itself has managed to keep moving quickly, reaching an average 462,000 people per day over the last week, but most doses now are boosters.

A bottleneck in supplies and a need to give second jabs to millions of people who got their first in January have meant the roll-out has lost momentum.

Figures from the NHS show 117,835 people got their first vaccine dose on Wednesday, which was up from just 59,905 on Monday but significantly lower than the one-day record of 614,930 on March 19.

The focus has switched now to second doses, with four times as many of those being administered each day – an average of 346,000.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock and NHS bosses warned at the end of March that April would be a month dedicated to second doses and preserving supplies.

Although the introduction of a third vaccine, made by Moderna, has allowed some newcomers to get their first jab – the programme opened up to 45 to 49-year-olds this week – Pfizer and AstraZeneca supplies for newcomers are running low.

Medical chiefs said in a warning on March 17 that, for four weeks or more, 'volumes for first doses will be significantly constrained'.

Health chiefs have known for months that April would be the month second jab demand started to kick in.

Everyone must get the second dose of their Covid vaccine about 12 weeks after the first, according to UK Government policy.

Britain confirmed on Sunday more than 9.9 million people in the UK have now received both doses of a vaccine.

Meanwhile nearly 33million have had their first dose as the UK's vaccination programme continues.

Sunday's case total - a marked increase on the 1,730 positive tests reported on this day last week - comes as a faster-transmitting Covid variant wreaks havoc in India.

It also marks the first Sunday since outdoor pubs, bars and restaurants can reopen their doors.

Experts believe the Indian variant not only speeds up transmission, but also features an 'escape mutation' which could possibly impact on the effectiveness of vaccines.

The latest figures show the rollout of Covid vaccines to new patients has slowed to a crawl in comparison to how it performed in March.

An average of 91,000 people are getting their first dose each day now after the rollout peaked at just over 500,000 per day in the middle of last month. 

A bottleneck in supplies and a need to give second jabs to the millions of people who got their first dose in January has now meant the number of patients receiving their first dose of the vaccine is lower this month compared to last month. 

Figures from the NHS show that 139,445 people got their first vaccine dose on Saturday, which was up from just 69,223 last Sunday but significantly lower than the one-day record of 614,930 on March 19. 

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