London jet-setters who defied covid-19 lockdowns to take a private plane last Saturday to the Cote d’Azur were ordered to return home by French police.
The aircraft carrying seven men, in their 40s and 50s, and three women, who were in their mid-20s, ignored orders not to land at Marseilles airport, according to a police official, who can’t be identified in line with official policy. He said the trip was organised by a Croatian national on board.
Three helicopters hired to whisk the group from the airport to a rented villa in Cannes were also sent packing by the authorities, said the chief of border-control police in Marseilles. Nine of the 10 passengers were forced to fly back to London without disembarking. The other person hired a private plane at the French airport to fly him to Berlin.
“The passengers were quite clear about their intentions of holidaying in Cannes,” the police official said.
International travel must be for a legitimate reason such as a repatriation or for medical staff called to help, which wasn’t the case in this instance, the police official said by phone. BFM TV reported the news earlier.
The incident comes after skiers jetting in from London and other European capitals to mountain resorts like Les Contamines in France and Ischgl in Austria have been found to be so-called superspreaders of the coronavirus when they returned home.
The group may have thought they had a better chance of falling through the cracks by landing in Marseilles instead of Nice, which is closer to Cannes, said the police chief.
“They maybe thought they’d get a fine but would be able to get to their destination,” he said. “But things didn’t turn out that way.”
The helicopter pilots were fined but the foreign passengers got away without any penalty as they didn’t technically enter French territory. The three French nationals on board would have been allowed to stay in the country but chose to fly back.
Any attempted trip by plane would have stood out to authorities at a time when air travel has left the skies over Europe nearly empty. Air traffic out of the U.K. is down nearly 90% from a year earlier, according to the National Air Traffic Service.
Elsewhere in France:
– Two sick Parisians who moved to their vacation homes on the exclusive Ile de Re off France’s Atlantic coast just before the nationwide lockdown have occupied all the capacity at the local intensive-care unit, according to France Bleu.
– Doctor Thierry Godeau told the radio station that the nearby La Rochelle hospital has 22 ICU beds, six more than usual, but is “saturated” and can take no more Covid-19 patients.