‘Some Americans are paying up to $20,000 for last-minute flights out of France’

There have been reports of chaotic scenes at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport as Americans scramble to get back to the USA ahead of the planned travel ban from Europe.

'Some Americans are paying up to $20,000 for last-minute flights out of France'
Photo: AFP

US president Donald Trump announced on Wednesday night that all travel from Schengen zone countries – including France – would be banned from 11.59pm on Friday, in an attempt to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The ban as announced has a lot of exemptions and loopholes, but the uncertainty over what happens next has caused panic among many Americans who were in France for holidays, work or visiting relatives.

READ ALSO What you need to know about Trump's Europe travel ban

With the announcement that the ban would come in to force on Friday night, many entered a desperate last-minute scramble to get home.

You can stay up to sate with the latest on the situation in France here.

From what we know at the moment it appears that the ban does not cover US citizens or their close family (which includes parents, children and spouses but not partners).

There are also no restrictions on flights from the UK and Ireland and airline or boat crew are exempt.

However with vast numbers of people cancelling their trips, many fear that airlines will soon begin to scrap flights rather than fly virtually empty planes.

The US Department of Homeland Security says it will give more detail over the next two days, so it's possible that some of the loopholes mentioned above could be tightened up.

And all the uncertainty has caused a great deal of concern, with many people scrambling to get back before the ban comes in to force.

Below are the experiences of New York Times journalist Mike McIntire, who was in Paris when he heard the news.
















There were similar scenes at airports around Europe, including London Heathrow and Schipol.

“We were about an hour into our flight from Salt Lake City when we got news of the travel ban to the United States, so we are trying to get back home now,” an American who gave her name as Michelle told AFP as she waited at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport.

“Hopefully we can get a flight out tomorrow, I don't know. We are just trying to get in before we can't.”

Jennifer, who hails from Idaho, said she was in the air when the announcement came, “so we really have no information… We are told that we need to be back by Friday, and that's all I know.”

French travel agents estimate that about 100,000 people who have booked trips to the United States via agencies in France will be affected by the anti-virus measure.

“It is the worst news for airlines, and it is the worst situation for us,” Rene-Marc Chikli, president of a French tour operators' federation, told AFP.

Have you been affected by the travel ban? Share your experiences at [email protected]


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Where in France are there concerns about pesticides in drinking water

An investigation has revealed that tap water supplied to some 12 million people in France was sometimes contaminated with high levels of pesticides last year.

Where in France are there concerns about pesticides in drinking water

Data from regional health agencies, and collated by Le Monde, found that supplies to about 20 percent of the population, up from 5.9 percent the year previously, failed to consistently meet regional quality standards. 

The study highlighted regional differences in tap water quality. Hauts-de-France water was the most likely to be affected, with 65 percent of the population there drinking water contaminated by unacceptable pesticide levels. In Brittany, that level fell to 43 percent; 25.5 percent in the Grand-Est, and 25 percent in the Pays de la Loire.

Occitanie, in southwest France, meanwhile, showed the lowest level of non-compliance with standards, with just 5.1 percent of the region’s population affected by high pesticide levels in their tap water. However, figures show that 71 percent of people in one département in the region, Gers, were supplied with water containing high levels of pesticides.

Regional discrepancies in testing, including what chemicals are tested for, mean that results and standards are not uniform across France. Tap water in Haute-Corse is tested for 24 pesticide molecules; in Hauts-de-Seine, that figure rises to 477. 

One reason for regional testing standards are differences in local agricultural requirements.

Part of the increase in the year-on-year number of households supplied with affected water may also be explained by the fact that tests in many regions now seek to trace more molecules, Le Monde noted.

Water quality standards in France are strict – with a limit for pesticide residues set at 0.1 microgramme per litre, so the “high” levels found in tap water supplies may not represent a danger to health.

The question of the level of health risk to humans, therefore, remains unclear. The Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l’alimentation, de l’environnement et du travail (Anses) has not defined a maximum safety level for 23 pesticides or their metabolites. Le Monde cites two metabolites of chloridazone, a herbicide used until 2020 on beet fields, for which only provisional safety levels in tap water have been set. 

Many of these molecules and their long-term effects remain unknown – and “the long-term health effects of exposure to low doses of pesticides are difficult to assess,” admits the Ministry of Health.

Michel Laforcade, former director general of the ARS Nouvelle-Aquitaine told Le Monde that health authorities have “failed” on this subject. 

“One day, we will have to give an account,” he said. “It may not be on the same scale as the contaminated blood affair, but it could become the next public health scandal.”

In December 2020, the Direction générale de la santé (DGS) recommended “restricting uses of water” as soon as the 0.1 micrograms per litre quality threshold is exceeded, in cases of residues for which there is no formal maximum health value.

But this principle is not always applied, according to France 2’s Complètement d’enquête programme.

In December 2021, the DGS asked the Haut conseil de la santé publique (HCSP) “for support on the management of health risks associated with the presence of pesticides and pesticide metabolites in water intended for human consumption.”

The HCSP, in response, said that “an active and urgent policy must be implemented to reduce the contamination of resources by pesticides”.