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UK to keep quarantine rules for travellers from France

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Britain said on Friday (16 July) that it was scrapping a planned easing of coronavirus rules for travellers from France, which had been due to take effect on Monday (19 July), because of the continued presence of the Beta variant of COVID first identified in South Africa, writes David Milliken.

Anyone arriving from France will have to quarantine at home or in other accommodation for five to 10 days, even if they are fully vaccinated against COVID, Britain's health ministry said.

This quarantine requirement will end as planned on Monday for fully vaccinated travellers from other countries in Britain's 'amber' category of coronavirus risk, which includes most of Europe. Just over two thirds of British adults are fully vaccinated.

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Monday sees the end of the majority of coronavirus rules in England, including most legal obligations to wear masks. But foreign travel will remain subject to quarantine and testing requirements.

"With restrictions lifting on Monday across the country, we will do everything we can to ensure international travel is conducted as safely as possible, and protect our borders from the threat of variants," health minister Sajid Javid said.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, France was Britain's second-most popular travel destination after Spain, and the news comes just a week before school holidays start in England, when millions would typically seek to cross the Channel.

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The change drew an angry reaction from global airline body IATA, which said Britain's travel restrictions and short-notice changes were out of line with those elsewhere in the world.

"The UK is entrenching itself as an outlier in its confused approach to travel. This, in turn, is destroying its own travel sector and the thousands of jobs that rely on it," Willie Walsh, director-general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), told Reuters.

Truck drivers will continue to be exempt from the quarantine requirement, but it will affect most other travellers, including those transiting through France from elsewhere in Europe.

Britain is currently reporting around 10 times as many COVID cases as France, due to the rapid spread of the Delta variant of COVID first identified in India, but has few cases of the Beta variant found in France.

Quarantine for arrivals from France was "a precautionary measure ... while we continue to assess the latest data and track prevalence of the Beta variant," Britain's health ministry said.

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Commission approves €1.8 million Latvian scheme to support cattle farmers affected by the coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved a €1.8 million Latvian scheme to support farmers active in the cattle-breeding sector affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme was approved under the State Aid Temporary Framework. Under the scheme, the aid will take the form of direct grants. The measure aims at mitigating the liquidity shortages that the beneficiaries are facing and at addressing part of the losses they incurred due to the coronavirus outbreak and the restrictive measures that the Latvian government had to implement to limit the spread of the virus. The Commission found that the scheme is in line with the conditions of the Temporary Framework.

In particular, the aid (i) will not exceed €225,000 per beneficiary; and (ii) will be granted no later than 31 December 2021. The Commission concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the scheme under EU state aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.64541 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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Commission approves €500,000 Portuguese scheme to further support the passenger transport sector in Azores in the context of the coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved a €500,000 Portuguese scheme to further support the passenger transport sector in the Region of the Azores in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The measure was approved under the State Aid Temporary Framework. It follows another Portuguese scheme to support the passenger transport sector in Azores that the Commission approved on 4 June 2021 (SA.63010). Under the new scheme, the aid will take the form of direct grants. The measure will be open to collective passenger transport companies of all sizes active in the Azores. The purpose of the measure is to mitigate the sudden liquidity shortages that these companies are facing and to address losses incurred over 2021 due to the coronavirus outbreak and the restrictive measures that the government had to implement to limit the spread of the virus.

The Commission found that the Portuguese scheme is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, the aid (i) will not exceed €1.8 million per company; and (ii) will be granted no later than 31 December 2021. The Commission concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions of the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the measure under EU state aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.64599 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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Commission authorizes French aid scheme of €3 billion to support, through loans and equity investments, companies affected by the coronavirus pandemic

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The European Commission has cleared, under EU state aid rules, France's plans to set up a € 3 billion fund that will invest through debt instruments and equity and hybrid instruments in companies affected by the pandemic. The measure was authorized under the Temporary State Aid Framework. The scheme will be implemented through a fund, titled 'Transition Fund for Businesses Affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic', with a budget of € 3bn.

Under this scheme, support will take the form of (i) subordinated or participating loans; and (ii) recapitalization measures, in particular hybrid capital instruments and non-voting preferred shares. The measure is open to companies established in France and present in all sectors (except the financial sector), which were viable before the coronavirus pandemic and which have demonstrated the long-term viability of their economic model. Between 50 and 100 companies are expected to benefit from this scheme. The Commission considered that the measures complied with the conditions set out in the temporary framework.

The Commission concluded that the measure was necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of France, in accordance with Article 107 (3) (b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the temporary supervision. On this basis, the Commission authorized these schemes under EU state aid rules.

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Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager (pictured), competition policy, said: “This €3bn recapitalization scheme will allow France to support companies affected by the coronavirus pandemic by facilitating their access funding in these difficult times. We continue to work closely with member states to find practical solutions to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic while respecting EU regulations.”

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