Coronavirus and travel – what is the situation for France?

As coronavirus continues to spread, more and more countries are bringing in restrictions on population movement in an attempt to contain the illness, so what's the situation travelling to and from France?

Coronavirus and travel - what is the situation for France?
Photo: AFP

Whether you're planning a holiday in France or just need to travel around the country, readers are asking what restrictions coronavirus has imposed on travel in France.

You can follow our live coverage for the latest on the situation in France here.


France itself has not imposed any restrictions on flights but the country is covered by the USA's ban on flights from Schengen zone countries.

The ban, announced on Wednesday night by US president Donald Trump, seems at present to have more holes than Swiss cheese, but at this stage it looks like flights from the US to France are not affected and the ban does not cover American tourists. Flights that include transfers in the UK also seem to be exempt.

However it's early days and it's possible that some of these loopholes will be tightened up in the coming days. So while at present Americans can still come to France, they may face problems getting home.

It's also possible that as demand falls airlines themselves will cancel flights rather than fly with very few passengers.

The uncertainty surrounding the new rules has prompted panic among American tourists who fear not being able to get home, with reports of chaotic scenes at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport on Thursday morning.


Away from transatlantic routes, any flight disruption has been largely down to individual airlines cancelling, although some countries including Israel and the Czech Republic have put in place restrictions on travellers from France.

Flights between France and Italy are heavily disrupted, although the Italian government's new quarantine measures do not ban flights. Air France, Ryanair and Easyjet have all suspended all flights to and from Italy until early April.

So far no airlines have cancelled routes to France, but some flights have been axed due to falling demand. British Airways has announced the cancellation of several flights over the next month for this reason.

We might soon be seeing more cancellations after the European Commission proposed relaxing it's 'use it or lose it' rule which has seen some airlines operate nearly empty flights for fear of losing their airport slot.

READ ALSO Should I cancel my trip to France because of coronavirus?

Air France is offering free cancellations or alterations of pre-booked tickets.

And on a slightly related note, British regional airline Flybe – which ran dozens of routes to France – has gone bust, with the already troubled company saying that coronavirus cancellations were the final straw.

France decided early on that measures like temperature screening at airports were not useful – given the virus' long incubation period – so there are no health checks at airports, but patients arriving from certain destinations are given advice on symptoms, testing and self-isolating.

The French government says that anyone travelling from China (including Macau and Hong Kong), Singapore, South Korea, Iran or the Veneto, Lombardy or Emilia-Romagna regions of Italy should self isolate for 14 days.

There are also some countries that have imposed restrictions on people travelling from France including Israel, North Korea, Russian, Iraq, Moldova and El Salvador.

READ ALSO What are the rules on coronavirus self isolating and quarantine?


There is currently no listed disruption on national train services, although French rail operator SNCF is offering free cancellations or alterations on pre-booked tickets.

Train routes from France to Italy have suffered some disruption with the Thello service between Paris and Venice and Milan and Marseille cancelled until April.

SNCF says it is waiting for guidance on its France-to-Italy routes. Since February trains have been stopping at the border and swapping French crews for Italian to minimise the movement of people between countries.

City public transport

There are currently no restrictions and city public transport, which was specifically exempted from the ban on gatherings of more than 1,000 people.

In Paris transport operator RATP has stepped up its cleaning routine and government health advice is being broadcast on the Metro, tram and bus services.

Although there are currently no plans to restrict transport, RATP is currently preparing contingency plans for staff shortages if, for example, schools are closed meaning that employees with children have to stay at home.

Fortunately the mass transportation strikes in December means that the company is well prepared for operating with fewer staff than normal.

READ ALSO Six ways to get around Paris without the Metro

Ferrries/ Channel Tunnel

There are currently no restrictions or alterations to either ferry services or Eurotunnel services although ferry companies are bringing in extra hygiene measures on board.

READ ALSO Coronavirus events ban – what is cancelled in France

So far, no countries have advised their citizens to avoid travelling to France, countries such as the UK and Ireland simply recommend that people be aware of the latest developments and follow the French's government's health advice.

This is; 

  • Wash hands your thoroughly and often with soap and water, especially after coughing and sneezing or before eating or it you have been touching surfaces that many other people will have touched such as on the Metro
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, especially with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. Use your elbow rather than your hands
  • Use disposable tissues and throw them away after use
  • Clean off surfaces with alcohol- or chlorine-based disinfectants.
  • Avoid shaking hands or doing la bise – the distinctive double (or treble) cheek kiss

The French government has set up a “green number” that people can call for any non-medical coronavirus-related questions. The line will be open all week from 8am until 9pm.

The number is 0 800 130 000. There are also daily updates on its website here.


Member comments

  1. “Flights between France and Italy are heavily disrupted,”
    I don’t see the point. We can all DRIVE to Italy; the are no borders.

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Carte vitale: France to adopt a new ‘biometric’ health card

The French parliament has approved a €20 million project to launch a 'biometric' version of the carte vitale health insurance card.

Carte vitale: France to adopt a new 'biometric' health card

As part of the French government’s package of financial aid for the cost-of-living crisis, €20 million will be set set aside to launch a biometric health card, after an amendment proposed by senators was approved.

Right-wing senators made this measure a “condition” of their support for the financial aid package, according to French left-wing daily Libération, and on Thursday the measure was approved by the Assemblée nationale.

While it sounds quite high tech, the idea is relatively simple, according to centre-right MP Thibault Bazin: the carte vitale would be equipped with a chip that “contains physical characteristics of the insured, such as their fingerprints” which would allow healthcare providers to identify them.

The carte vitale is the card that allows anyone registered in the French health system to be reimbursed for medical costs such as doctor’s appointments, medical procedures and prescriptions. The card is linked to the patient’s bank account so that costs are reimbursed directly into the bank account, usually within a couple of days.

READ ALSO How a carte vitale works and how to get one

According to the centre-right Les Républicains group, the reason for having a ‘biometric’ carte vitale is to fight against welfare fraud.

They say this would have two functions; firstly the biometric data would ensure the card could only be used by the holder, and secondly the chip would allow for instant deactivation if the card was lost of stolen.

Support for the biometric carte vitale has mostly been concentrated with right-wing representatives, however, opponants say that the implementation of the tool would be costly and lengthy.

It would involve replacing at least 65 million cards across France and repurposing them with biometric chips, in addition to taking fingerprints for all people concerned.

Additionally, all healthcare professionals would have to join the new system and be equipped with devices capable of reading fingerprints. 

Left-leaning representatives have also voiced concerns regarding the protection of personal data and whether plans would comply with European regulations for protecting personal data, as the creation of ‘biometric’ carte vitales would inevitably lead to the creation of a centralised biometric database. Additionally, there are concerns regarding whether this sensitive personal information could be exposed to cybercrime, as the health insurance system in France has been targeted by hackers in the past.

Finally, there is concern that the amount of financial loss represented by carte vitale fraud has been overestimated. The true figures are difficult to establish, but fraud related to carte vitale use is only a small part of general welfare fraud, which also covers unemployment benefits and other government subsidy schemes.

The scheme is set to begin in the autumn, but there us no information on how this will be done, and whether the biometric chip will just be added to new cards, or whether existing cards will be replaced with new ones.