France tightens border control

Paris, July 18 (IANS) French authorities have decided to impose tougher restrictions on non-vaccinated travellers from high-risk countries, and appealed to citizens to get inoculated to counter an alarming surge in Covid-19 infections.

From Sunday, non-vaccinated arrivals from the UK, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, the Netherlands and Greece need to present a negative Covid-19 test within the past 24 hours, Prime Minister Jean Castex’s office said.

Currently, UK travellers must show a test taken less than 48 hours, while arrivals from the other listed countries should be tested negative 72 hours upon boarding, reports Xinhua news agency.

Meanwhile, people who have completed their inoculation with a jab recognized by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) — Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson — are no longer subject to travel restrictions to or from France.

Furthermore, Tunisia, Mozambique, Cuba and Indonesia are added to the red list, meaning that people need a compelling reason to travel, show a negative test before departure and self-isolate for 10 days.

“The Delta variant is here, we must not hide the truth, it is more contagious than the previous ones. We must adapt and face it,” Castex said on Saturday.

Due to the highly infectious Delta variant, the number of daily infections have spiked, with 10,908 people tested positive on Friday, the biggest one-day jump since May 28.

The country’s overall infection tally and death toll currently stood at 5,917,397 and 111,657.

The French government fears a fourth wave will hit the country by the end of July unless restrictions are imposed.

In Pyrenees-Orientales, where the incidence rate climbs to 250 per 100,000 inhabitants, mask returns in all public places, except in the beach and large natural spaces.

Consumption of alcoholic beverages is banned outdoors, and restaurants and bars must close at 11 p.m.

The mandate, which came into effect on Saturday, will be in place until August 2.

Mask wearing is also reintroduced in outdoor public places and tourist zones in Grand Est, Var and Pas-de-Calais departments.

Facing a worrying pandemic situation, “there is only one solution, a priority solution: vaccination”, said the Prime Minister.

“We must vaccinate. We must deploy the health pass. It is essential to protect ourselves, to carry out as many activities as possible, to avoid having to take strong braking measures.”

Data from Health Ministry also showed that 44.2 per cent of the country’s 67 million inhabitants have completed their vaccination.

In a boost to vaccine rollout, medical staff and workers in contact with vulnerable people must be vaccinated by September 15.

They might face the risk of being unpaid if they refuse to be inoculated.

Starting from July 21, only vaccinated people or those who showed negative tests and recently recovered from the flu-like illness, will be allowed in amusement parks, to attend concerts and festivals.

Starting from August, initially required to attend large-scale events, the health pass will be required in bars, restaurants, cafes, shopping centres, hospitals, in addition to nursing homes, long-distance trains and planes.

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