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France considers tighter controls for UK travelers to tackle spread of Indian variant of Covid
France could impose stricter restrictions on British travelers as part of an effort to curb the spread of the more contagious Indian variant Covid-19. Jean Yves-Le Drian, the country’s foreign minister, told French radio RTL on Sunday that the government would not rule out “slightly stricter” measures for visitors from the UK. “We are concerned about the Indian variant and we remain on high alert on this, in cooperation with the British authorities,” said Le Drian. Although no official announcement has been made, Mr Le Drian said this could mean the UK would be classified as a medium risk country, referring to the color-coded traffic light system used to determine the quarantine measures and other restrictions to which travelers fall. Mr Le Drian stopped before saying the UK would be classified as a “red” country, but suggested it could be classified as “yellow”. The news comes just a day after Germany’s Department of Health announced the UK was an ‘area of concern for variants’. From Sunday at midnight, only German citizens and UK residents are allowed to enter the country. Others will be refused unless they have an essential reason to travel. More than 3,850 cases of the Indian variant have been detected in the UK, with a 160% increase in new cases over the past seven days. An article presented to the UK government earlier this month said the Indian variant could be up to 50% more transmissible than the original strain. “At this point in the vaccine rollout, there are still too few adults vaccinated to prevent a significant resurgence that could ultimately put unsustainable pressure on the NHS,” the newspaper said. Even with the potential increased risk of transmissibility, some health experts have said that travel restrictions will do little to prevent the spread of new variants. “Closing the border will have no effect,” said Catherine Hill, epidemiologist at Gustave Roussy hospital in Paris. She said those determined to travel will find ways to get around the restrictions, such as flying to neighboring countries and then taking a train or bus. “It just doesn’t make sense. If travelers really want to go see their old parents or if they really want to meet a friend, they’ll find a way, ”Hill said, adding that at the moment there was“ no reason for serious alarm ” concerning the Indian variant. Preliminary evidence suggests that vaccines are still effective against the Indian variant. There are very few confirmed cases of the Indian variant in France to date, but health experts fear it is spreading. The French public health agency recorded 38 new outbreaks in the past seven days, a 60% increase from the previous week. Three of the outbreaks came from family clusters with no known link to India, meaning it is not known whether it spread to French soil. For the moment, concluded the French public health agency, there was still “no evidence of significant community spread” in France.