Air travel from Britain to France resumed after a two-day halt, though eligibility restrictions and a new Covid-19 testing requirement limited the number of people able to board.
A British Airways flight to Paris departed at 9:24 a.m. from London Heathrow on Wednesday, followed by one to Nice, according to the airport’s website. Both were delayed, and an earlier Air France departure canceled, reflecting the challenges facing airline and airport staff.
With two days to go before Christmas, travel to most other European countries was still blocked. More than 40 nations worldwide halted travel with the U.K. in the run-up to the busy holiday, after a new strain of highly contagious coronavirus began to spread in and around London.
Travel remains limited to those with essential needs. A spokesman for the U.K.Department for Transport said that mostly means French people returning home for Christmas.
U.K. residents are already severely limited in their ability to travel, with a Tier 4 lockdown introduced in London and southeast England on Saturday set to be extended to the rest of England on Dec. 26 according to some news reports. Scotland and Wales are imposing similar measures.
In the first three hours of operation on Wednesday, 17 flights from Heathrow had been canceled, mostly to European countries. Service continued to a handful of European Union destinations like Madrid, as Spain was one of the few countries from the bloc to remain open.
The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on itswebsite that travelers from the U.K. must take either a PCR test, which can take 24 hours or more to produce a result, or an antigen tests from an approved list, which give faster results but are less accurate.
Eurostar International Ltd. passenger trains were also getting started, linking central London with France via the Channel Tunnel. The company said people bound for Paris and Lille won’t be allowed to travel without a negative Covid result from the previous 72 hours, and that antigen tests must specify the type taken.
The company added on its website that trains to Brussels are limited to Belgian citizens and residents, with few limited exceptions, and that people mustn’t travel there to catch onward trains to other countries. Only essential travel is permitted to Amsterdam.
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