Thousands of people are travelling to France to beat the country’s ban on UK tourists.
Long queues were reported at the Port of Dover after many people brought their Christmas travel plans forward to avoid new restrictions which come into force at 11pm on Friday.
After the deadline UK citizens will need a “compelling reason” to enter France, with trips for tourism or business banned.
#PODover: There are still large queues at border controls and we estimate the wait time to be approx. 2h 30mins. Once you reach our check in, we will put you on the next available sailing
— P&O Ferries Updates (@POferriesupdate) December 17, 2021
The office of French Prime Minister Jean Castex said the decision was made “in the face of the extremely rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the United Kingdom”.
No end date has been given.
Travel bookings for Friday soared after the new restrictions were announced.
P&O Ferries warned customers there were “large queues” at border control at the Port of Dover, with an estimated waiting time of two-and-a-half hours.
Eurostar urged people to avoid London St Pancras station unless they had a pre-booked ticket as many trains were sold out.
Several flights from the UK to France were also fully booked.
People intending to travel through France to other countries can only continue with their trip if they are remaining in the international area of an airport for less than 24 hours.
Hauliers, transport workers and French nationals are exempt from the new rules.
Those allowed to enter France will need to provide evidence of a negative coronavirus test taken less than 24 hours in advance, and must isolate for at least two days.
Travel firms described the tourism ban as a “hammer blow” as it will mean many winter sports holidays cannot go ahead.
People who have booked a package holiday – combining transport and accommodation – that they cannot now use because of the rules will be entitled to a refund within a fortnight.
Trade association Abta has requested an “urgent meeting” with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to discuss the sector’s “current financial situation and its pressing need for financial support”.
Chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “The Government has recognised the plight of the UK hospitality sector, with trade down by 40% in December.
“But at the same time, the travel industry, where income has been down by 78% this year, and further impacted by Omicron restrictions since late November, continues to be ignored.
“Over the past fortnight, we have heard nothing from Government about how travel and tourism might be supported. The time to act is now.”