France to SCRAP travel ban as Europe's anti-lockdown protests continue

France is ‘set to SCRAP ban on British tourists’ as thousands of anti-lockdown erupt across Europe for another weekend with thousands marching through Paris, Germany and Austria against strict Covid curbs

  • Parts of draconian travel ban imposed on British travellers planning to head to France are set to be eased 
  • The ministerial cabinet agreed to scrap certain curbs preventing essential UK workers from entering France
  • As infections fall in England, Omicron cases surge in France – with more than 332k recorded on Wednesday  
  • Thousands turned up as anti-lockdown protests erupted in Austria, France and Germany for another weekend 
  • Riot police were pictured clashing with hundreds of demonstrators in Magdeburg, Germany on Saturday

The French government has confirmed that some of the draconian restrictions imposed on British travellers are set to be eased as anti-lockdown protests erupt in Europe for another weekend.

Members of the French ministerial cabinet agreed to lift certain travel rules designed to prevent Brits from travelling into the country earlier this week as Omicron tightened its grip on France with over 330,000 new Covid cases recorded.

Gabriel Attal, spokesperson for the French Government, confirmed that the list of reasons for which UK travellers would be permitted entry into France would be expanded to now also allow in-person work to be completed in the country. 

Attal admitted it would now be ‘a bit easier’ to enter France for essential work reasons, after the ‘list of compelling reasons, notably professional,’ was widened. It is not clear how this new announcement might affect trips for leisure or tourism.

Despite some optimistic developments from the continent, fresh anti-lockdown protests occurred in countries across the EU on Saturday.

In Austria, riot police watched on as hundreds of furious demonstrators were pictured marching through the streets of Vienna in protest at the nation’s Covid curbs.

Marches were also seen in Paris and Magdeburg, Germany, as thousands joined together in protest against what are perceived to be excessively strict restrictions and mandatory vaccinations.

The French government has confirmed some of the draconian restrictions that barred British travellers from legally entering France are set to be eased later this month

Gabriel Attal, spokesperson for the French Government, confirmed that the list of reasons for which UK travellers would be permitted entry into France would be expanded. Pictured right: An empty freight and passenger departure area is pictured in Dover on December 30 after France’s ‘travel ban on Brits’ came into force

GERMANY: Thousands of demonstrators gather in Magdeburg, central Germany to protest against new German government measures designed to curb the spread of Covid

FRANCE: Protestors also gathered in large crowds in Paris on Saturday, January 8, to demand an end to the nation’s mandatory vaccine pass for social settings

AUSTRIA: Riot police watched on as large crowds, of largely unmasked protestors, gathered in Vienna on Saturday to demonstrate against Covid curbs

AUSTRIA: A column of anti-riot police grapple with protestors in Vienna as the crowd’s demonstrations against Covid curbs turned ugly

GERMANY: Riot officers use spray to push back against an advancing line of protestors during a huge demonstration in Magdeburg, Germany on Saturday January 8

A masked protestor raises his fist alongside others as hundreds are seen marching against Covid restrictions in Vienna on Saturday, January 8

A furious woman shouts as she gestures at riot police in Vienna, Austria on Saturday, January 8

Thousands of Germans, baring banners and holding flags, gathered in Magdeburg, Germany on Saturday January 8

Flares, flags and signs were all used by the maskless protestors in Paris on Saturday, January 8, as they marched against vaccines

From December 18, British holidaymakers were subject to a raft of new restrictions that prevented them from making the trip across the English Channel. 

The travel constraints, which barred all Brits from any non-essential travel into France, included stopping legal French residents at the border, as Macron’s government singled out the UK amid claims the ban was designed to slow the arrival of the super-mutant Omicron variant.

And while England’s Covid cases appear to be plateauing since the turn of the new year, France recorded more than 332,000 fresh infections in the country on Wednesday – a new high mark since the pandemic began. 

The French President faced stinging criticism from travel experts when the ban was instigated, who immediately pointed out that Omicron was already prevalent in the country and made up a higher proportion of French cases according to data at that time.

Senior industry figures across the Channel also warned that several holiday and ski resorts faced the prospect of economic ‘catastrophe’ this month unless the ban is lifted. 

MailOnline understands the decision to came in the days leading up to France’s recent Omicron surge, where cases now stand higher than those seen in Britain. 

Currently, the sole reasons accepted for UK-based travel into France include for ‘urgent’ family matters or to travel back to main residence in Great Britain through the country. 

Non-EU citizens are still banned from travelling for tourism or leisure, and proof of a negative Covid-19 pre-departure test is still required. 

All travellers from the UK – including the fully vaccinated – are required to immediately quarantine upon their arrival into France, but their mandatory self-isolation period can end after two days if they provide a negative PCR test.  

It comes as French President Emmanuel Macron admitted he planned  to ‘pi** off’ unvaccinated people by making their lives so complicated they would end up getting jabbed.  

‘By – and I’m sorry for putting it this way – by p***ing them off even more,’ he said on Tuesday.

Macron, 44, made the cutting remark while responding to a nurse during a question and answer session with readers of Le Parisien on how the government will handle non-vaccinated people.  

The phrase prompted howls of condemnation from rivals and forced parliament to suspend a debate on a Covid-19 bill today as opposition lawmakers demanded explanations from Macron.

He added: ‘I’m generally opposed to the French being p****d off. I complain all the time about administrative blockages. 

‘But when it comes to the non-vaccinated, I’m very keen to pi** them off. So we’re going to do it, the end. That’s our strategy.’ 

Germany’s new Health Minister Karl Lauterbach warned the country must revamp its vaccination strategy to tackle the Omicron variant and to ensure it can develop a new vaccine rapidly if it faces a more deadly coronavirus strain in future

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer tested positive for Covid-19 this week and vowed to do everything possible to prevent another nationwide lockdown

Meanwhile, Germans were warned the country must revamp its vaccination strategy to tackle the Omicron variant and to ensure it can develop a new vaccine rapidly if it faces a more deadly coronavirus variant in the future, Germany’s new Health Minister warned.

Karl Lauterbach, who was appointed health minister last month, made his comments in an advanced release of an interview to be published in the Welt am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday.

‘If we get a variant that is as contagious as Omicron, but significantly more deadly, we should be able to develop and produce a new vaccine in a very short time,’ Lauterbach said.

The government is planning to put a permanent system in place to purchase and provide shots rapidly at any given time because there could be serious new outbreaks, he said.

‘We must not fall into the naive assumption that it (the pandemic) will be over soon. It’s not over,’ he said.

Germany closed large vaccination centres in several states last summer when demand for COVID-19 shots briefly declined to a trickle before picking up again.

The Omicron variant now accounts for 44% of coronavirus infections in Germany, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious disease said.

On Saturday, the RKI counted 55,889 newly reported corona infections within 24 hours, more than double the number a week earlier.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz and regional leaders tightened the rules for restaurant and bar visits on Friday as part of efforts to encourage more people to get a third vaccination, or booster shot, but shortened quarantine periods.

The Bundestag lower house of parliament will also soon discuss a draft bill for a general vaccination mandate. 

On Saturday, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer confirmed he was well and had no COVID-19 symptoms after testing positive for Covid this week, vowing to do everything possible to prevent another nationwide lockdown.

Nehammer, a conservative who has received three vaccine shots, has been conducting official business from home via video and telephone conferences since he tested positive.

‘Thanks to the vaccine, thank goodness, I’m doing well,’ he told Austrian radio in an interview. ‘I don’t have any symptoms.’

‘The studies verify that with the Omicron variant, three vaccination doses give particular protection. That’s been my experience too,’ said Nehammer, who will not attend any public appointments in the next few days.

He was apparently infected on Wednesday following contact with a member of his security team who tested positive on Thursday, the chancellery said on Friday.

Nehammer, 49, announced new measures this week to curb the spread of the coronavirus and pressed on with plans to make vaccination mandatory from next month.

‘The priority now is using the strongest possible protection measures for everyone to try to prevent a new lockdown. Because a lockdown is very burdensome for people,’ he said on Saturday.

Austria’s interior ministry registered 7,405 new coronavirus cases on Saturday. Since the start of the pandemic, 13,844 people have died in the country after contracting the virus.

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