'I was scared': home-coming French expats relieved to escape Britain

PARIS (Reuters) - Sam Cabral, a French expatriate living in Britain, expressed relief on Wednesday as she stepped off a Eurostar train from London, becoming one of the first people to make the trip after a travel ban imposed over COVID-19 worries was eased.

“I’m very happy to be home and actually I’m going to .. go and see my mum and dad, put on a mask and give them a hug,” she said on arrival at the Gare du Nord station in Paris.

Cabral recalled her reaction when she realised the ban, imposed by the French authorities late on Sunday, could torpedo her Christmas travel plans and leave her stranded in Britain, where she has no family.

“I said to myself , ‘Oh my God.’”

She said she ate some foie gras, a traditional French delicacy consumed at Christmas, for consolation, but added that nevertheless “I was a bit scared”.

France and many other countries halted passenger traffic from Britain because of an outbreak of a new variant of the COVID-19 virus identified by British authorities.

Traffic started flowing again across the Channel from Britain to France on Wednesday morning after London and Paris negotiated a deal.

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Under the agreement, only certain categories of people are allowed to travel from Britain to France, and they need to prove they have tested negative for COVID-19.

Another French expatriate arriving in Paris on Wednesday, Albert Khayat, described the scramble to try to comply with the new rules.

“I was trying to get out of London. We got the news at 7 p.m.” on Tuesday evening. He said he was advised to get tested at the train station in London, which he did on Wednesday morning before boarding.

“The scandal is ... tests in Britain, which cost 160 pounds ($216) for each test,” said Khayat. “Not everyone has that luxury.”

Reporting by Maxime Lahuppe and Thierry Chiarello, Writing by Christian Lowe; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise