France is cracking down on non-essential travel from Britain in the latest restrictions aimed at delaying the spread of Omicron.
It will only allow travel for “compelling reasons” between the two countries from midnight on Friday, according to a statement from the office of French Prime Minister Jean Castex.
“These compelling reasons do not include tourism or business reasons,” it added.
It will also tighten the pre-departure testing timelines for antigen and PCR tests to 24 hours for arriving travellers. They are currently set at 48 hours.
The new measures will apply to everyone regardless of vaccination status.
Travellers from Britain arriving in France will also have to self-isolate for seven days, though isolation will be lifted after 48 hours if their test conducted in France is negative, Reuters reported.
The moves are the latest in a head-spinning wave of travel restrictions introduced by countries in a desperate effort to buy time for booster roll-outs.
Today, Italy begins requiring all travellers to present pre-departure test results, joining Ireland and Portugal among the EU countries breaking ranks on testing.
Greece has also said that, from December 19, all international arrivals will need to present a negative PCR test taken within the 48 hours prior to arrival.
The moves come as EU leaders, including Taoiseach Micheál Martin, head to Brussels for a summit set to address Covid-19 and the Omicron variant.
There is a divide in the EU over travel restrictions – with some countries pushing for Covid tests for anyone travelling into the bloc, and others opposed.
However, members are expected to back a proposal to limit the validity of Covid Certs to nine months for travel to encourage the use of booster shots in the near future.
In other news, Sweden is set to require visitors from other Nordic nations to have a vaccine pass to cross the border from December 21, its government said today.
Canada’s government has also advised residents not to leave the country, as infection rates rise and hospitals struggle.
"I say very clearly: Now is not the time to travel," Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos told a news conference, as reported by Reuters.
"I understand this sucks," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters as he urged Canadians to follow public health advice and "be careful during this holiday season".
UK travel industry spokespeople have described the French move as a “hammer blow”.
Colum McLornan, MD of Co Antrim-based Friendship Travel, said: “It’s a hugely upsetting and disappointing decision from France, not just ruining the start of ski-season but will dent consumer confidence going forward.”
Julia Simpson, President & CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council, added that the move was “an ineffective, knee-jerk reaction” by the French government.
“Banning travel to France will not stop COVID variants that are already in France. As South African scientists said, these decisions are based on hysteria not logic.
“This decision will destroy long planned family reunions and it has long term implications for a travel and tourism sector that was just beginning to recover.”
This story is being updated.