“I packed my bags in 30 minutes”

A real race against time has begun in France for the British who want to return to the country before the implementation of the quarantine measures planned for Saturday, August 15 for travelers from France. Report from Eurostars passengers at Gare du Nord in Paris.

The announcement, late in the evening on Thursday 13 August, of a mandatory quarantine for travelers arriving from France, and the explosion in the price of train and plane tickets that followed, did not become the legendary British slime.

A few hours before this quarantine came into force on arrival in the United Kingdom, to combat the spread of the Covid-19 epidemic, there was no crusher or crusher on Friday boarding the Eurostar at Gare du Nord in Paris.

Many Britons, however, had to withdraw from the summer square and bring their travel date forward to return before 3pm on 15 August. This is the fateful deadline traveling from France, but also from the Netherlands, Monaco and Malta will need to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival on British soil.

A Eurostar ticket from 17 August, whose date has been postponed until 14 August to enter British soil before the start of two weeks on arrival. © Mehdi Chebil

David Samuel thus began his long journey back at dawn from the city of Aix-en-Provence, in the south of France, 730 km from Paris, where he spent his vacation.

“I absolutely had to come home before my forties to not find myself restricted in my movements. Impossible to go outside, work, meet friends or family, play sports … It would be really too uncomfortable,” explains the financial analyst. to France 24 before boarding the Eurostar at 13:13.

Rising ticket prices

Two types of passengers flock to the border post installed on the first floor of Gare du Nord: those who had planned to travel long distances on 14 August, who have a feeling of having won the lottery, and those who had to buy a last-minute ticket.

For the latter, the bill is salty. David Samuel thus paid his Eurostar ticket of 240 euros, to which he had to add a last-minute AX-Paris TGV trip to 80 euros. It is still cheaper than flights to the UK, whose prices also exploded with prices up to 500 euros.

Sophie Holmes, a French-British teacher, twice changed the date of her Eurostar ticket to make sure she returns to the UK before her fourteen-year arrival.
Sophie Holmes, a French-British teacher, twice changed the date of her Eurostar ticket to make sure she returns to the UK before her fourteen-year arrival. © Mehdi Chebil

Several passengers who already had Eurostar tickets presented their travel dates. Unlike SNCF tickets, which can be exchanged free of charge until 31 August due to the health crisis, Eurostars passengers have to pay to change their travel date.

This is especially the case with Sophie Holmes, a French-British teacher who visited her grandparents in Orleans, 130 km south of Paris, when she heard about the establishment of the quarantine.

“Originally I had to return on Saturday 22 August, but I had heard about the possibility of quarantine and I had therefore already changed my tickets to take Eurostar on 15 August,” the young woman explains to France 24.

“So I had to change tickets a second time as soon as possible. This morning I packed my bags and left in 30 minutes. The quarantine may be justified but they should have given them more time. People who have to work can plan their return and avoid them. two weeks of isolation, ”adds Sophie Holmes.

A quarantine for deleting past mistakes?

The establishment of a quarantine of all passengers from France was not unexpected. A similar measure had already been introduced by London on travelers from Spain since 26 June and Belgium since 8 August. London bases its decision on the latest health data, according to which there was a 66% increase in new cases of Covid-19 in France during the week of 7-13 August.

James Augier and his two children before taking the Eurostar at the Gare du Nord in Paris, 14 August 2020.
James Augier and his two children before taking the Eurostar at the Gare du Nord in Paris, 14 August 2020. © Mehdi Chebil

But the fact that the announcement was made late in the evening is the straw that broke the camel’s back for James Auger, a Briton who lives in Paris and absolutely must visit London this weekend.

“This announcement at 11 pm is a strange tactic for the government to make it more difficult to organize people who want to return before quarantine,” said the father with his two children.

“If the government had taken the coronavirus seriously from the beginning of March, we would not have had this death toll [41 000 morts officiellement, NDLR] nor this massive recession. And now they are overreacting to make people forget the fact that they are incompetent “, adds James Auger, who plans to return to France in a few days.

Plans that could be further complicated by the French threat to impose a quarantine on people coming from Britain as retaliation.