Fresh Covid-19 fears boost domestic travel in France

As the start of the summer holiday season coincides with the Delta strain becoming the dominant variant of Covid-19, some French holidaymakers are forced to make last-minute adjustments to their vacation plans, opting for domestic destinations instead.

Rita Ranc, a 43-year-old accountant and mother of three, is one of many who found themselves in the same shoes. She reluctantly cancelled her booking in Portugal over fears of a fresh round of travel curbs. Now she and her family will spend their two-week holiday in August at a campsite in Var, southeastern France, the Xinhua news agency reported.

“The news from Portugal is not good and elsewhere the virus variant is circulating even faster,” she said. “I don’t think the situation will improve in the coming weeks. Given the circumstances, staying in France is a safer option.”

“Even if the borders remain open, the virus may ruin our plans at any moment. Why take this risk?” she added.

The recent improvements in Covid-19 indicators prompted the authorities across Europe to relax the restrictions in hopes of the tourist season resuming. However, the highly transmissible Delta variant of Covid-19 appears likely to dash these hopes.

In Portugal, where the Delta strain, first detected in India, already accounts for 90 per cent of the new infections, a curfew has been reimposed, remote working is mandatory whenever possible, and restaurants and cafes must again close earlier in high-risk zones.

Many regions in Spain, notably Catalonia, which includes Barcelona and many popular holiday spots, have reintroduced restrictions on nightlife after a surge in infections mostly among younger adults least likely to be vaccinated.

France’s minister of state for European affairs Clement Beaune on Thursday called on his compatriots to avoid Spain and Portugal in their holiday plans.

This is “a prudent advice, a recommendation,” Beaune told France 2 television.

On Wednesday, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, France’s minister of state for tourism, echoed Beaune’s call.

“I promote a ‘white, blue and red’ summer,” he told the state-run France info radio, referring to the three colours of the French flag.

“I encourage the French to rediscover France and to choose France,” he added, calling on the public to stay cautious and vigilant.

Tourism advisory group Protourisme said that an estimated 37 million French people plan to travel during this summer season, but only eight million have chosen foreign destinations.

French people plan to hit the road in record numbers in July and August, Protourisme Director Didier Arino told RTL radio recently.

“Surely, we all want to have fun in the wake of all those lockdowns, but not by risking our health,” commented Olivier Desangle, a taxi driver who often spent his holidays in Spain.

“This year, we are going to Arcachon (southwestern France). We will stay in France as many others will,” he added.