Covid variant sees France tighten travel restrictions for overseas territories

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New travel restrictions will come into effect on Monday for the French overseas territory of Martinique, while international air and sea links with the island of Mayotte are to be suspended from Sunday after a case of the south African variant was detected there. Neighbouring Reunion island has also confirmed its first case of the variant.

There is growing concern about the spread of the Covid-19 virus in France’s overseas territories after many mainland French tourists spent their Christmas holidays there.

100,000 travelled to Martinique alone.

As a result, Martinique is to introduce new travel restrictions on Monday 18 January to limit the risks of viral spread, and in particular the new British and South African strains.

In addition to producing a negative PCR test “people coming in from abroad, notably from mainland France and Guiana will be required to stay at home for 7 days," the Prefecture outlined in a statement.

"They will also have to "limit outings to the strict minimum (food shopping, medical appointments) and have a test 7 days after arriving on the territory”.

Only people travelling between Guadeloupe and Martinique are exempted from the new measures.

Travel to and from French Guiana will also "be restricted" in view of its worsening health situation, the statement said.

Comoro islands hard hit

The suspension of international air and sea links to Mayotte, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, takes effect on Sunday and will last for a minimum of 15 days according to prefect Jean-François Colombet.

Only travel for urgent reasons between the islands will be allowed.

But there are concerns over the ongoing number of clandestine arrivals (kwassas-kwassas) coming to Mayotte from the poor Comoros islands which are grappling with the health crisis.

The health ministry registered 41 covid-related deaths on the Comoros islands as of 16 January and the situation is particularly critical on the island of Mohéli which has been isolated from the rest of the archipelago since the beginning of the year.

Despite humanitarian aid missions in place, many people from Mohéli have been arriving, illegally, in Mayotte in search of medical treatment.

Meanwhile, the prefect on neighbouring Reunion island has also confirmed its first case of the south African variant, connected to a patient who had been airlifted in from the Comoros islands.

Authorities subsequently announced that travellers arriving in Reunion from Mayotte, Comores or Mozambique in the last 14 days would be required to take a PCR test as soon as possible.

Travellers from Reunion will now be required to show a negative test to be able to enter mainland France. Previously, this had only been for those returning to Reunion from the mainland.

According to the regional health authorities (ARS) in Reunion - 9,446 covid infections have been reported and 45 death since the 11 March 2020.

52 patients are in hospital, three of them in intensive care.