Britain’s restrictions on travellers from France seem “excessive”, the French European affairs minister has said as France attempts to contain rising Covid cases – which stand at less than a third of the daily reported cases in the UK.
“We don’t think that the United Kingdom’s decisions are totally based on scientific foundations. We find them excessive,” Clément Beaune told BFM TV after the UK decided that visitors would need to quarantine for 10 days after arriving from France amid concern over the Beta variant.
The French MEP Véronique Trillet-Lenoir at the weekend said it was “difficult to understand” the UK rules, as the Beta variant is mainly in France’s overseas territories.
Beaune’s comments come as France attempts to limit the rapid spread of the more contagious Delta variant, which has led to a jump in new infections. France reported more than 12,500 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, the third day that the tally has held above 10,000. In the UK, the new daily cases stand at more than 48,000.
“From now on, it’s either generalised vaccination or a viral tsnunami, there is no alternative,” the French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said as parliament prepared to began the process to set into law Emmanuel Macron’s new “health pass”.
This pass is designed to pressure people to vaccinate by making it compulsory to have proof of a vaccination or negative test to enter restaurants, shopping centres, long-distance trains or hospitals.
An Ipsos poll last week found 62% of French people were in favour of a health pass. Hundreds of thousands of people signed up for vaccinations after the president unveiled the plans last week. More than 43% of French people have had two doses.
About 114,000 people protested on the streets across France on Saturday against the stricter vaccination rules, which include compulsory jabs for healthcare workers and retirement home staff. Some legislators have received death threats after supporting the new vaccination rules. The Bayonne public prosecutor has launched an arson investigation after a vaccination centre was set on fire in Urrugne in the Pyrénées-Atlantique in south-western France on Saturday night. Firefighters put out the blaze at a tent set up to house a vaccination centre. The prosecutor said flammable products had been found nearby.
There was outrage from the government, human rights groups and relatives of holocaust survivors in France after some protesters used the symbol of the yellow star – imposed on Jewish citizens in Nazi-occupied Europe to mark them out for segregation discrimination and deportation to death camps.
Joseph Szwarc, 94, who escaped the wartime roundup of Jews at the Vel d’Hiv cycling track in Paris, used a commemoration speech in the capital to express his “indignation” at the “odious” use of the yellow star by anti-vaccination protesters. He said: “You can’t imagine how this affected me. Tears came to my eyes. I wore the yellow star, I know what it is, it’s in my flesh.” He called on “all our citizens” to not allow what he called “the current wave of antisemitism and racism” to continue.
The lawyer Arno Klarsfeld, a member of the association Sons and Daughters of Jewish Deportees from France, said: “The yellow star was a passport that led you to death, whereas the vaccine allows people to save lives.” He said it was shocking that organisers of the march had not excluded people wearing yellow stars. “To those who are ignorant, I want to say: two-thirds of the Jews of Europe were wiped out.”
The Licra, France’s International League against Racism and Antisemitism, said the use of the yellow star in these protests amounted to negationism.
Attal said there was a “tiny minority of people who used the yellow star against the health pass”, calling it “absolutely scandalous”.
He called demonstrators against the health pass and vaccines “a capricious and defeatist fringe, which was very much in the minority”.