Covid-19: between France and the United Kingdom, the Beta variant of discord

Who will tighten the screw the hardest? When it is not on the question of fishing, France and the United Kingdom seem to clash on the ground of border controls. On Friday, the British government inflicted a new snub in Paris by announcing that residents of the United Kingdom from France, even fully vaccinated against Covid-19, will have to continue to observe a quarantine on their arrival in England. This decision therefore makes France an exception among the countries placed on its “orange” list.

Indeed, the government had previously announced that fully vaccinated people residing in the United Kingdom and coming from countries classified as “orange”, among which many tourist destinations in Europe such as France, Italy or Spain, would not have. no longer need to observe quarantine from Monday. “However, this will not apply to France following the persistent presence of cases in France of the Beta variant (of the coronavirus), which was identified for the first time in South Africa”, indicates the Ministry of Health in a statement.

“We have always been clear that we will not hesitate to take swift action at our borders to stop the spread of Covid-19 and protect the achievements of our successful vaccination program,” said the Minister of Health Sajid Javid in a press release. “With the restrictions being lifted across the country on Monday, we will do all we can to ensure that international travel is as secure as possible and to protect our borders from the threat of variants,” he continued. In addition, it is likely that the governments of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, competent in health matters, will adopt the same measure.

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The evolution of the Beta variant as justification

If the move disappoints travelers, outgoing British Ambassador to France Lord Llewellyn has clarified that people could reduce their 10-day quarantine with a negative PCR test. In France, it is misunderstanding that dominates. Officials seemed baffled by the decision, suspecting British ministers of having based it on the increase in cases on the French island of Reunion – which is yet nearly 10,000 kilometers from Paris. In fact, the Beta variant represents less than one in ten new infections in France, but it is dominant in the Indian Ocean territories of Réunion and Mayotte. The Consul General of France in London said that “scientific justifications do not always immediately come to mind” on Twitter by contrasting the evolution curve of the Delta variant in France to that of the Beta variant.

Across the Channel, scientists are divided on this issue. Member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, Professor John Edmunds recalled in The Guardian that the Beta variant “has remained a threat (…) although it is less contagious than Delta”. One of the fears of scientists is that the variant from South Africa may escape the immune response generated by the AstraZeneca vaccine more effectively. As a reminder, two-thirds of people vaccinated were injected with the British serum. Other specialists denounce a “paradox” as the government prepares to lift on Monday almost all of the remaining restrictions in England, including masks and social distancing.

“I am a doctor so I understand the health issues very well, but this makes no sense!” Said Dr Maud Lemoine, consultant in hepatology at St Mary’s Hospital, Imperial College London, and currently in France. The UK decision is a blow to the travel industry, which was hoping for a “significant recovery” in its activity.

For its part, the hexagon is also barricaded. She has toughened her rules and announced that from Sunday unvaccinated travelers from the UK will be required to show a negative PCR or antigen test dating back less than 24 hours. Until then, people arriving from the UK were subject to a test of less than 48 hours.

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The deadline was 72 hours for those coming from Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, the Netherlands and Greece. One of the countries most affected in Europe by the Covid-19, which has killed more than 128,500 there, the United Kingdom has seen contaminations climb for weeks, even exceeding 50,000 daily cases on Friday, unheard of since January . It builds on the success of a vaccination campaign launched in early December which has enabled more than two-thirds of adults to be fully vaccinated. Currently, the United Kingdom and France are facing a resurgence of the epidemic – the two countries respectively have 50,000 and 10,000 infections per day.



The President of the European Commission Ursula Von der Leyen, during the presentation of the European Green Deal in Brussels, July 14, 2021Par Christian Gollier, Toulouse School of Economics


By Sylvain Fort


by Christophe Donner

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