Updated 3 hours ago
Thousands of people embarked on trips to France ahead of a ban on tourists in the UK.
Cross-channel rail operator Eurostar is urging people to avoid London St Pancras unless they have a pre-booked ticket and have tested negative for coronavirus.
Most of the company’s train services were sold out on Friday as many people submitted their Christmas travel plans after the new restrictions were announced on Thursday.
Ferry operators and airlines have also seen a surge in demand.
It comes as new data from the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that more than a third of UK adults do not believe life will return to normal within a year.
About 39% of adults do not expect life to return to normal for at least 12 months, according to the Office for National Statistics.
This is more than double the percentage (18%) in December 2020.
About 7% expect life to return to normal in less than six months – down from 28% last December.
Across the UK, new measures have been implemented to help slow the spread of the Omicron variant, such as mandatory face coverings, working from home where applications are possible and a booster program being expanded to younger adults.
Across the UK, certain places and events are legally required to verify that visitors over the age of 18 have received doses of the vaccine or have evidence of a negative test in the last 48 hours.
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford did not rule out today adding more Covid restrictions after Christmas, saying there would be «no parties in nightclubs on New Year’s Eve».
He announced new legal measures that will take effect on December 27, to slow the spread of the Omicron variant.
Drakeford urged people to scale back their festive plans, saying his festivities would be «modest».
The rules to be introduced within 10 days are taken from Alert Level 2 for the country, and include reinstating social distancing, barriers and one-way regulations in business.
The Welsh government has said the scheme currently does not include restrictions on private households, but the First Secretary of Labor has not ruled them out entirely in the future.
He also said that more restrictions on hospitality venues may be needed, including a limit of six people per table.
«I hope that after Christmas the hospitality will reopen and we will work with the sector to think about the terms on which it will reopen,» said Mr. Drakeford.
“People are already voting with their feet and canceling the arrangements because they are concerned about Omicron.
«We may need to put some extra protections in place when hospitality reopens so that people can feel confident when they go out to a bar or restaurant, and then everything is done to make sure they are safe.»
But he stressed, «There will be no parties in nightclubs on New Year’s Eve.»
French travel ban
French Prime Minister Jean Castix said strict restrictions will be imposed from 11pm today, including a requirement for «compelling reasons» to travel to and from the UK.
Tourist or business trips will not be permitted.
This is «in the face of the very rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the UK,» Castex’s office said.
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People who intend to travel through France to other countries can only continue their journey if they stay in the international area of the airport for less than 24 hours.
Those allowed to enter France will need to provide proof that a negative coronavirus test took less than 24 hours in advance, and must be isolated for at least two days.
Carriers and transport workers are excluded from the new rules.
Travel companies have described the tourism ban as a «hammer blow».
Eurostar’s Twitter account has been inundated with messages from people wanting a refund.
The company offers customers the opportunity to rebook without fees or vouchers.
The ABTA trade association has requested an «urgent meeting» with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to discuss the «current financial situation of the sector and its urgent need for financial support».
Chief Executive Mark Tanzer said: “The government has recognized the plight of the UK hospitality sector, with trade down 40% in December.
But at the same time, the travel sector remains largely ignored, with income down 78% this year, and hit hardest by Omicron’s restrictions since late November.
«For the past two weeks, we haven’t heard anything from the government about how to support travel and tourism. It’s time for action.»
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