A decision by France to impose a seven-day quarantine on people arriving from the UK due to fears over the Indian Covid-19 variant that has been detected in the UK has further complicated the plans by the country’s film industry to attend the Cannes Film Festival from July 6-17.
European affairs minister Clement Beaune confirmed the details overnight, stating the measures would comprise seven days of obligatory self-isolation and the requirement of a negative PCR or antibody test, taken within 48 hours of departure.
In addition, non-French or non-resident visitors will have to demonstrate “compelling reasons” for entering the country. Whether a festival would fall under that is very open to question.
The measures will come into force from Monday (May 31). It is not known for how long the measures will last or when they will be reviewed.
The move follows Germany’s decision last week to ban people travelling from the UK unless they are a German citizen or resident, while Austria has banned all direct flights to and from the UK, with effect from June 1.
There had been hopes that restrictions on people arriving in France from the UK would be lifted on June 9, in line with the planned re-opening of borders between all European Union member states. As a non-EU member, the UK is now treated as a third-party country and is no longer automatically part of these agreements.
Market head Jérome Paillard told Screen on Thursday (May 27) that he was trying to pin down the precise implications of the new travel restrictions for attendees.
The festival is believed to be exploring whether the new entry requirements can be softened for guests but would not confirm this officially and it is not clear whether the French government would countenance such a measure in the face of the rising incidence of the Indian variant in the UK.
The UK was the third biggest country in terms of attendance of the market in 2019, its last physical edition prior to the 2020 hiatus. A total of 1,145 UK professionals attended. The US was the biggest attendee with 2,264 participants, followed by France with 1,943, according to Marché data.
The UK presence was expected to be more low-key this July due to ongoing Covid-19 health concerns and travel restrictions. The British Film Institute (BFI) had already decided to move its Cannes activities online rather than run a physical pavilion on the Croisette, while UK sales agents had also indicated to Screen that they were unlikely to attend physically unless they had a film in Official Selection or one of the parallel sections.
A number of UK-based professionals, however, have been booking flights and accommodation in recent weeks. Falling Covid-19 rates in the UK, a high vaccination rate, and the opening-up of France from mid-May had fuelled optimism that attendance of Cannes this year was possible.
The most recent move now raises the prospect of a highly-reduced UK presence on the Croisette this year and the possibility of UK-based screenings of festival films.
The festival is due to announce the Official Selection line-up on Thursday June 3.