Holidaymakers and industrial groups denounced the late decision to quarantine the British for 10 days upon their return from France.
From Monday, UK residents who have had two COVID jabs will no longer have to isolate themselves after their return to England from Orange List countries such as Spain, Portugal and Greece.
France was supposed to be part of the plan, but on Friday night the government said it would be ruled out as it examines the latest data on the increase in beta-variant cases in the country.
This means travelers must continue to quarantine themselves for 10 days.
They must also have a coronavirus test on day 2 and day 8 – however, the option to end isolation early on day 5 with separate testing will remain.
The policy change angered Britons currently on vacation in France, while the Easyjet boss said he was “pulling the rug” from people already traveling the country.
Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps defended the government’s approach and said he was determined to safely reopen international travel, but public health was the priority.
Georgina Thomas, a fully vaccinated nurse who visited her parents in France, said she could not understand the decision.
“I am frustrated with the inconsistent approach taken by the government, it all does not seem logical,” the 32-year-old told the PA News Agency.
“If quarantine is necessary so be it, but I am convinced my risk will be higher when I return to the UK.”
Graham McLeod, of Bolton, who is staying on France’s Atlantic coast, said he should also self-isolate despite the double blow.
The 63-year-old called it “inconsistent, irregular, unclear and frankly impractical”.
“We find it difficult to understand the sudden desire to introduce a quarantine for returnees from France and cannot help but think that it has a lot more to do with politics and a lot less with science,” he said. added.
Travel industry body ABTA called it yet another setback for vacation companies that “would undoubtedly erode consumer confidence in overseas travel.”
Easyjet boss Johan Lundgren said he was “pulling the rug” under people already in France, or those who had booked to go.
“The traffic light system is collapsing, the government inventing it as it goes, causing confusion and uncertainty. It is not supported by any science or transparent data,” he said.
Labor shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said UK border policy was “descending into further chaos” and accused ministers of “making rules on the shoe”.
“Once again the travel industry and the British are paying the price,” he said.
While the current beta – or South Africa – variant cases are not high enough to put France on the redlist and impose quarantine in hotels, the government has said the risk must be avoided.
Cases in the UK are overwhelmingly dominated by the Delta variant and there are concerns that some vaccines may be less effective against the beta type.
“Travel will be different this year and while we are committed to continuing to open up safe international travel, our top priority is to protect public health here in the UK,” said Mr Shapps.
“We urge anyone planning to go overseas this summer to check their terms and conditions as well as overseas travel restrictions before leaving.”
And the new health secretary, Sajid Javid, said the government has made it clear that it “will not hesitate to take swift action” if necessary.
“With the restrictions being lifted across the country on Monday, we will do all we can to ensure that international travel is as secure as possible and to protect our borders from the threat of variants,” Javid said.
UK Health Security Agency chief executive Dr Jenny Harries added: ‘As we ease restrictions and start to return to normal life, it is more vital than ever to listen to the data and act decisively when they change.
“As vaccines help us turn the tide against this virus, we must continue to proceed with caution.
“This means maintaining our defenses against the new variants and protecting our hard-earned progress through the exceptional deployment of vaccination.”
The ministry also clarified that Amber List exemptions for key workers, including carriers, would remain in place.