As France moves towards lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus, holidaymakers are starting to wonder what this means for their upcoming trips. Here, we look into the latest advice, and how the outbreak could affect your travels.
France has moved towards a state of lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus, threatening the holiday plans of thousands of British tourists.
Our Gallic neighbours welcome some 17 million Britons a year; France is the world’s most visited country.
But in a bid to contain the illness, authorities have ordered the closure of all non-essential services, shops, bars and restaurants.
The country’s ski resorts have also closed.
Below we detail the guidance on travel to the country and what to do if your holiday is affected.
Is it safe to visit France? Foreign Office advice
The Foreign Office (FCO) has not advised against travel to France, but has issued the following guidance:
“There is an ongoing outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) in France. The French government outlined new measures on 14 March to delay the spread of coronavirus. This includes the closure of all non-essential establishments open to the public until further notice (i.e. restaurants, cafes, cinemas). Food shops, pharmacies, petrol stations, and banks will stay open.
“Some countries are imposing a compulsory period of quarantine for all travellers from France. If you are travelling from or through France, please check the situation at your destination before you travel.”
Have all ski resorts closed?
On March 15, in response to the government’s measures, the National Union for Ski Regions and the National Association for Mayors in Regions with Ski Resorts announced that all ski resorts in France are closed with immediate effect until further notice.
Tour operators are currently repatriating any British holidaymakers left in resorts at the time of the closure.
What to do if you have flights to France booked?
There is not yet evidence of airlines bulk cancelling flights to France. However, carriers including British Airways, Ryanair and EasyJet have warned they intend to reduce their schedule over the coming weeks and months in response to falling demand.
Ryanair has said it could reduce its capacity by up to 80 per cent over April and May, and has not ruled out a grounding of its fleet.
BA, too, has said it could cut its schedule by 75 per cent, while EasyJet has said it could ground its fleet on a rolling basis.
Air France has said it could reduce its activity by up to 90 per cent over the next two months.
If you are in any doubt as to whether your flight is scheduled to go ahead, contact your airline or check on their website.
What about Eurostar?
Eurostar trains continue to operate from London to Paris and beyond, but the operator said it was running on a revised timetable. Eurostar has said anyone unsure should visit the train line’s website.
Anyone booked to travel before April 7 has been given the option to reschedule their trip.
Are ferry services running?
Yes, they continue to operate. Brittany Ferries has been forced to run a revised timetable. It has details here.
Services operating as normal are:
- Portsmouth and Caen
- Portsmouth and St Malo
- Portsmouth and Bilbao
- Poole and Cherbourg
What is the lockdown in France like?
The Foreign Office has provided more details on the measures introduced by the French authorities:
The measures set out on the French government website (in French) include:
- The closure of all schools, crèches and universities with effect from Monday 16 March until further notice.
- Prohibiting gatherings of more than 100 people.
Further recommendations are:
- For people over 70 years of age and/or those with existing health conditions to stay at home as much as possible.
- To avoid visiting the vulnerable and instead stay in touch remotely.
- To work from home where possible.
- To keep a minimum distance of one metre from others as much as possible.
You should monitor the French government website (in French) to inform your decisions regarding travel to, from or within France.
The French government advises those with possible coronavirus symptoms to call 112. You should not go directly to the doctor or emergency services.
On Monday, rumours were circulating that the French government intended to impose further measures restricting the movement of people, but authorities denied it.
The lockdown means the majority of tourist attractions around the country, including those in Paris, such as the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, have been closed.
Do I need to self-quarantine if I visit France?
Not on return to the UK, no.
What do I do if I get stuck in a lockdown situation?
The FCO states: “If the local authority where you are, proposes to quarantine you for your own protection, you should follow their advice. When you are abroad, your safety and security is their responsibility.
“If there are suspected cases of coronavirus where you are, you may need to remain in your hotel room or accommodation for 14 days, move to quarantine facilities, take tests for coronavirus and, if positive in some cases, be hospitalised abroad.
“You should also contact your airline or travel company, and your insurance provider as soon as you can. We only organise assisted departure in exceptional circumstances.”
Its advice also states: “If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).”
Would I get money back if I cancelled my trip to France?
As the Foreign Office has not changed its travel advice for France – to avoid all but essential travel, as it has for Spain and Italy – a decision to cancel a trip at this point would be categorised as “disinclination to travel”, something not covered by insurers or recognised by many tour operator terms and conditions.
Tour operators, however, have been offering flexibility amid the coronavirus outbreak and offering customers the opportunity to cancel or rebook trips. If you are in any doubt over your trip, contact your operator or travel agent.
Should your airline cancel your trip, it will offer you the opportunity to rebook or a refund. As with operators, many airlines, including British Airways and EasyJet, are offering flexibility on their bookings.
For those who have booked their holiday independently, contact your accommodation provider and check the terms and conditions of your bookings and insurance policy.
If you want to cancel a package holiday to an area that does not have a Foreign Office warning in place, then you will not be eligible for a refund. If you have booked independently and the region is still considered safe by the FCO, you are unlikely to be able to cancel your change trip without losing money. Your best course of action would be to contact your hotel, tour operator or airline to ask if you can change your plans.
Is my insurance valid if I travel to France?
Your travel insurance will be valid so long as the Foreign Office has not issued a warning before you travel. If the FCO issues a warning while you are in an affected region, you will be covered as normal so long as you follow the latest FCO advice for British nationals. Some insurance policies will provide support if, when you are abroad, you are prevented from travelling home due to travel restrictions caused by coronavirus. Always double check your policy, and check Foreign Office warnings, before you travel.
Still wondering if you should go ahead with your holiday, or cancel? See our ten-point travel advice check list.