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France to limit long-distance train, bus, plane travel over coronavirus epidemic

France will progressively reduce long-distance train, bus and plane travel on its territory over the coming days in a bid to limit the spread of the coronavirus, the ecology minister said Sunday.

France to limit long-distance train, bus, plane travel over coronavirus epidemic

The country, which has already shut cafes, restaurants, schools and universities and urged people to limit their movements, will now seek to limit long-distance travel “to the strictly necessary” minister Elisabeth Borne told journalists in Paris.

The French government has urged the public to avoid any non-essential travel as it tries to slow the spread of the coronavirus epidemic.

On Saturday the French PM announced that all bars, restaurants and non-essential stories were to close as the spread of the virus accelerates across the country.

The government also confirmed the epidemic had reached stage 3 in France, in other words the virus was active throughout the country.

Pedestrians walk in the center of Le Touquet, northern France on March 15, 2020. AFP

Long-distance train traffic will be halved, with only “a few” international flights maintained, she said.

Deputy transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said this meant that “some flights to the United States, Africa, some domestic flights” and to France's overseas territories will be maintained.

Airports will remain open, but certain terminals will be closed — one at Orly Airport in the south from Wednesday, and two at Charles De Gaulle in the north by the end of next week.

Regarding 12,000 French nationals stranded in Morocco after the kingdom suspended air links with 21countries, Djebarri said they were being progressively repatriated. 

Flights from Marrakesh, Casablanca and Rabat have already departed for France, and others are planned for later Sunday from Agadir and Tangiers.

Domestically, Djebarri said long-distance trains of the SNCF rail company will be halved in the coming days, and the regional TER service will run two trains in three.

In French cities and towns, 80 percent of metros, all buses and trams, and seven out of 10 suburban trains will continue running.

“Everyone must give up non-essential travel, leisure travel” and limit themselves to trips required for health, food and work, except if they could work from home, said Borne.

While closing all businesses providing non-essential goods and services in a bid to stem the coronavirus outbreak, France has allowed supermarkets, pharmacies, banks, gas stations and tobacco shops — which also sell newspapers, snacks and stamps — to remain open.

Member comments

  1. But one could still travel by car from one end of the country to the other. A complete lock down within departments with only commercial vehicles allowed to travel outside of departments is the only way to go.

  2. But one could still travel by car from one end of the country to the other. A complete lock down within departments with only commercial vehicles allowed to travel outside of departments is the only way to go.

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Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

With a sharp rise in reported cases in recent weeks, France appears to be in the middle of a new wave of Covid infections - so what measures are the government taking to control it?

Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

Recorded case numbers in France are now over 50,000 a week, and have been since the beginning of June – this is a long way short of the 350,000 weekly cases recorded in January but still the highest since May and representing a steady an increase of 57 percent on the previous week.

Hospital admissions are also on the rise – standing at 707 admissions on Friday, June 24th compared to 400 daily admissions just two weeks earlier.

So what is the French government doing about it?

Since March, almost all Covid-related restrictions have been lifted in France – the health pass is no longer required for everyday activities such as visiting a bar or going to the gym and face masks are now merely advised in all indoor locations. Only hospitals and other health establishments such as nursing homes still have mandatory rules on face masks and health passes.

For international travel, fully vaccinated arrivals from most countries – including the UK, US and the whole of the EU – need only to show proof of vaccination, while unvaccinated travellers need to show proof of a recent negative Covid test – full details HERE.

Health pass

A proposed bill from the health ministry that was leaked to French media talks about re-imposing some form of pass sanitaire (health pass) to get numbers under control.

Some caveats to add here is that the document is only a proposal at this stage and the government has explicitly rules out – for the moment – reintroducing the vaccine pass. The health pass can be used to show either proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test, so it is less restrictive for the unvaccinated.

The document suggests re-introducing a health pass for travel – both to and from France – not for everyday activities like going to a café.

Testing and contact tracing

The bill also proposes extending the software involved in contact tracing and the Covid testing programme until March 2023, although this is described as a ‘precaution’.

Testing remains available on a walk-in basis at most French pharmacies and by appointment at health centres and medical labs. Tests are free for fully-vaccinated residents of France who have a carte vitale. Those are only visiting France, who are not registered in the French health system or who are not vaccinated have to pay – prices are capped at €22 for an antigen test and €54 for a PCR test.

READ ALSO How tourists in France can get a Covid test


The government’s Covid vaccine adviser Alain Fischer told France Info that he was in favour of making face masks compulsory on public transport again and said it is ‘being discussed” at government level.

At present masks are not required, but are recommended, especially on busy services where it is impossible to practice social distancing.

Epidemiologist Pascal Crépey said: “In crowded trains, the risk of being in the presence of infected people is high. It would be a good idea for the population to wear the mask, to protect especially the most fragile and avoid massive infection rates.”

Local measures

French local authorities also have the power to impose certain types of restrictions if their area has a particularly high rate of infections.

At present, none have done so, but Nice mayor Christian Estrosi has spoken in favour of possibly bringing back the vaccine pass over the summer.

Second booster shots

A second booster shot of the Covid vaccine is now available to all over 60s and anyone who has a long-term medical condition or who is otherwise at risk from Covid.

It is recommended that the government increase public messaging advising those in high risk groups to get the second booster shot. The medical regular HAS has advised combining second booster shots with the seasonal flu vaccine campaign in September and October.

France is not, at present, considering widening the campaign to the entire popular, but the EU’s vaccine commissioner Thierry Breton says that if necessary, there would be enough doses to cover the whole population.