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France to allow some passengers with negative COVID tests into country
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 23 - 12 - 2020

Planes, trains and boats will start running again between France and the UK from Wednesday morning, the government has said.
Passengers will be required to present a negative result on a COVID-19 test that they took less than 72 hours before departure.
Results from both PCR and rapid antigen tests will be accepted, provided that the test used can detect the new variant of the coronavirus found across the Channel.
Only French nationals, residents in France and those with a "legitimate reason" to travel will be allowed into the country, France's Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said.
The people concerned will be "systematically subjected to the obligation to have, before departure, the result of a negative test (COVID-19) of less than 72 hours", either PCR or antigenic, provided that it is sensitive to the new variant found across the Channel.
France has been blocking entry to all traffic from the UK since Sunday after the UK said it had detected a new variant of coronavirus that was spreading rapidly in London and southern England.
The two countries' leaders held talks on Monday and agreed to resolve the issue of goods transportation, which has been held up at the Channel as a consequence.
Scores of lorry drivers spent a second night sleeping in their vehicles waiting for the frontier to reopen.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the number of lorries waiting on the main motorway leading into the port of Dover in southeast England had reduced from 500 on Sunday night to 170.
Earlier on Tuesday, the European Commission called on EU countries to lift full travel bans on the UK, following the decision by some countries to close borders over a new variant of the coronavirus.
Brussels issued a statement calling for EU member states to allow for essential travel of UK and EU citizens. "Blanket travel bans should not prevent thousands of EU and UK citizens from returning to their homes," said Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders.
The Commission said it accepted that countries must take precautions to control the spread of the new virus variant, but called for coordinated exemptions for "citizens and residents returning home and other essential travelers".
Speaking to Euronews, Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said: "What is important is that any measures taken need to be harmonized and coordinated across the member states.
"We have seen throughout this pandemic that harmonization and coordination makes us much stronger and more effective in tackling the pandemic."
The Commissioner for Transport, Adina Vălean, added: "Within the EU, it is crucial that transport workers are exempted from any restrictive measures, as quarantine and testing.
"We have to continue to maintain the supply chains intact, in line with our Green Lanes Communication."
Several other European countries have introduced bans on passengers travelling from the UK, but the French restrictions also covered freight, leading to the delays.
A European Council source told Euronews that the EU had not yet decided on a coordinated approach and that travel restrictions remained at the discretion of member states, refuting earlier reports that an EU-wide travel ban would be introduced for 48 hours.
Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has said a joint position was important to ensure "a flight ban can't be circumvented via other European Union member countries".
Germany has now increased its restrictions on travel from the UK to Jan. 6.
The restrictions led British postal company Royal Mail to say it was temporarily suspending deliveries to several European countries including France and Germany.
Deliveries to countries further afield such as Canada and Turkey are also affected, the company said.
Johnson sought to assure the UK public that the border delays would not cause food shortages.
He told a televised news conference on Monday: "These delays, which are only occurring at Dover, only affect human-handled freight and that is only 20 percent of the total arriving from or departing to the European continent.
"This means the vast majority of food, medicines and other supplies are coming and going as normal".
Most countries in western Europe and beyond have now suspended transport links with Britain.
Spain and Portugal decided on Monday to suspend flights from the United Kingdom from Tuesday. Spanish citizens and residents will still be able to enter the country, as long as they have a negative COVID test result.
Switzerland has banned entry for people coming from the UK and is requiring anyone who entered the country from there from Dec. 14 to undergo a 10-day quarantine.
Russia has also suspended air links with the UK for a week, with restrictions starting at midnight on Dec. 22, the government said in a statement.
French officials had said a 48-hour pause on entries from the UK would buy time to find a "common doctrine" on how to deal with the threat of the new COVID variant, but it threw the busy cross-Channel route used by thousands of trucks a day into chaos.
The Port of Dover tweeted on Sunday night that its ferry terminal was "closed to all accompanied traffic leaving the UK until further notice due to border restrictions in France".
Eurostar passenger trains from London to Paris, Lille, Brussels, and Amsterdam were canceled on Monday and Tuesday with hopes to resume services from Wednesday.
The news of a coronavirus variant in the UK comes as South Africa also announced on Monday that a new form of the COVID-19 virus is driving the country's resurgence of the disease, with higher numbers of confirmed cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
According to health officials and scientists leading the country's virus strategy, the new variant, known as 501.V2, is dominant among new confirmed infections in South Africa's current wave.
The new variant, different from the one in Britain, appears to be more infectious than the original virus. South African scientists are studying if the vaccines against COVID-19 will also offer protection against the variant.
Professor Salim Abdool Karim, chairman of the government's Ministerial Advisory Committee, said in a briefing to journalists that preliminary data suggests the new strain of the virus is now dominating South Africa's new wave, which is spreading faster than the first.
South Africa currently has more than 8,500 people hospitalized with COVID-19, surpassing the previous high of 8,300, recorded in August. — Euronews


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