FRANCE will close its borders to non-EU countries except for essential travel, Prime Minister Jean Castex has announced.
The measure, which comes into force from Sunday, comes amid a furious row between the EU and Brit firm Astrazeneca over the delivery of vaccine doses.
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Announcing the measures, Mr Castex stopped short of imposing a new lockdown despite infection rates remaining high in France.
Anyone entering the country from the EU must give a negative PCR test, the PM added.
Sources told the BBC the decision would not be applied to hauliers.
Mr Castex also announced tighter controls on the number of people allowed into shopping malls and increased police controls against people breaking a 6pm curfew.
Virus infections, hospitalisations and deaths have been rising steadily but not sharply in France in recent weeks – prompting fears of another lockdown.
Citing the economic devastation of another shutdown, Mr Castex said: “Our duty is to put everything in place to avoid a new lockdown, and the coming days will be decisive.”
France has reported 75,620 deaths during the pandemic – one of the highest figures in Europe.
And hospitalisations have continued to rise in January, with 60 per cent of intensive care beds currently occupied by virus patients.
It comes as the British government has warned the EU it is considering action after the bloc imposed export controls on Covid vaccines to Northern Ireland.
Brussels today announced new controls on the UK which could allow it to block jabs getting to the UK, including 3.5 million from a Pfizer BioNTech in Belgium.
Under the EU vaccine plan, customs authorities in bloc countries will have to notify the Commission every time jabs are being sent to the UK – allowing them to keep an eye on our supplies.
The new rule, which comes into force on Saturday and lasts until March, means vaccine makers will have to disclose all shipments they’ve made abroad in the last three months to try to catch out those heading to the UK.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove spoke to his counterpart on the EU-UK joint committee, Maros Sefcovic, to “express the UK’s concern over a lack of notification from the EU about its actions in relation to the NI protocol”.
The row intensified further today as French President Emmanuel Macron branded Astrazeneca’s jab “ineffective” on over-65s – despite the EU giving it the green light.
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Mr Macron said: “The real problem with AstraZeneca is just that it doesn’t work as expected, because there we have very little information.
“Today, everything suggests that it is almost ineffective for those over 65, and some say over 60.”
But the European Medicines Agency signed off the vaccine for use on all adults – including the over 65s.