Minister defends France's amber plus status amid row over travel curbs

30 July 2021, 08:27 | Updated: 30 July 2021, 17:12

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The Transport Secretary has defended the amber plus travel restrictions for France amid a growing row over the decision, as concern grows for other destinations.

Mr Shapps said the decision to keep France on the amber plus list was made due to cases of the Beta coronavirus variant in the north of the country.

Amid a diplomatic backlash from France over “excessive” quarantine restrictions Nick Ferrari grilled Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on LBC on Friday.

"Travel rules descend into French farce, you're the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, what are you going to do about it?"

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Mr Shapps said the government was being "on the cautious side" of changing international travel as he warned of the dangers of different Covid variants.

He told LBC there was "particular" concern in France with reference to the Beta Covid variant.

Earlier this week, Mr Shapps confirmed England would allow fully vaccinated visitors from both the EU and the United States to arrive without needing to quarantine from August 2.

But he added that tougher rules will continue to be in place for France, which, although on the amber list, still requires travellers to quarantine on their return regardless of their vaccine status.

Mr Shapps said this advice would be reviewed at "the end of next week" as part of an ongoing assessment of travel rules.

Yesterday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that the decision to put France on the amber-plus list had been taken in part because of the high rate of the Beta variant in Réunion, a French overseas territory in the Indian Ocean.

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But Mr Shapps denied this was the sole reason, he said when the decision was made the data showed "cases actually in France."

"We've seen very, very low levels of Beta here," Mr Shapps said as he revealed there was "scientific concern" over "vaccine escape."

"It's safety first."

France was put on England’s amber plus list two weeks ago, after the government took advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC).

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At the time, the reason given by the Department of Health and Social Care was the “persistent presence of cases in France of the Beta variant.”

It comes after a French minister described the UK government's decision to keep quarantine measures for travellers coming from France while removing them for all other European countries as "discriminatory" and "excessive".

France hit out at England’s decision to make it the only EU country excluded from new rules allowing fully vaccinated travellers jabbed on the continent or in the US to avoid quarantine if coming from an amber list country.

The Europe minister, Clément Beaune, said it was “excessive”, telling France’s LCI TV: “It’s frankly incomprehensible on health grounds. It’s not based on science and discriminatory towards the French. I hope it will be reviewed as soon as possible; it’s just common sense.”

The Transport Secretary said there would be a review of the travel rules in one week.