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COVID-19

Coronavirus: What’s the latest on travelling to and from France?

With travel plans in turmoil, what's the best way to get to (or out of) France?

Coronavirus: What's the latest on travelling to and from France?
People line up outside Paris airport Charles de Gaulle after the United States announced its 30 days travel ban for people coming from France. Photo: AFP

Getting around within France

Once you are in France, travel is severely restricted and you need a permission form for every trip you make – find out more about that here.

For tourists stuck in the country, travel to a port or airport to make your way home is allowed and the UK government has urged all its citizens currently on holiday to return home as soon as possible.

For people wanting to travel to France there are very few reasons that are counted as acceptable travel. If you live here and are heading home you can do that, otherwise you need an urgent reason for travel.

There is more detail here on exactly what constitutes an acceptable reason for travel, but coming to see family is not one of them (unless you are required to provide urgent care for them) even travel for a family funeral is not allowed and neither is travel to a second home in France.

Failure to follow the rules results in a fine of €135 in the first instance or, if you are stopped twice within a 15 day period, €1,000. Repeated breaches of the rules can result in a jail term.

Flights

Flights to and from France are still taking off, but airlines across the board are cancelling services due to a huge drop off in demand, and the French government has announced that international flights are to be reduced, so it's important to check before you make your way to the airport.

There are lots of restrictions as individual countries close their borders, and the EU has restricted all travel into the Schengen zone from non Schengen countries (although this does not apply to the UK for the moment).

British Airways, EasyJet, Ryanair and Jet2 are among the airlines to have made cancellations to their inbound and outbound services between the UK and France.

Orly airport in Paris is to close to commercial traffic from March 31st. Aeroport de Paris cited a “major and brutal” collapse in the number of flights to both Orly and Charles de Gaulle airport north of the capital as the reason for its decision.

“Yesterday, we were at minus 92 percent in passenger traffic at Orly and minus 89 percent at Charles de Gaulle,” director Edward Arkwright told media.

For those wishing to fly out of France, it's important to check whether your destination country has imposed any travel restrictions or quarantine measures. You've probably heard that the US has placed a ban on arrivals from France and other Schengen nations, with the UK and Ireland now included too.

Other countries including Israel, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa have also imposed strict controls on arrivals from countries, like France, now classified as high-risk. This means you could be stopped from boarding or subject to a lengthy quarantine procedure on arrival.

You can find all our latest coronavirus coverage in France here.

Ferries

Brittany Ferries announced on Friday morning that it was suspending all passenger crossings. It is continuing to provide freight services between France and the UK.

 

P&O Ferries is also boosting its freight operation, but for the moment is still running passenger services.

What's happening on the Eurostar?

As things stand, Eurostar is continuing to operate to all destinations, but have cancelled many services due to a drop in demand and requests from governments for reduced travel.

You can find out if your train has been cancelled by checking online here. If your train has been cancelled, you're entitled to be refunded or booked onto another service. Anyone who's decided to cancel a Eurostar journey planned anytime between now and April 7th will be offered an eVoucher equivalent to the full value of their current booking which can be used to book a new trip later on in the year.

Coaches

Flixbus international coach services are still running, although significant cancellations are being made as European countries including Italy, Germany, Poland and Croatia impose their own travel restrictions.

Some services from Paris, Lyon and Valence to London are still available, as are National Express coaches between Paris and London.

Skiing

On March 15th, it was announced that all ski resorts in France were to be closed with immediate effect until further notice. The National Union for Ski Regions and the National Association for Mayors in Regions with Ski Resorts advise you to consult your tour operator and insurance provider if you had a ski trip booked.

 

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HEALTH

French government calls on over-60s to get second Covid booster as cases rise

As Covid cases show a significant rise in France in recent weeks, the government is calling on all eligible groups to get a second Covid vaccine booster shot.

French government calls on over-60s to get second Covid booster as cases rise

After a 40 percent rise in Covid-19 cases in the last week, the French Health ministry is calling all eligible people – including over 60s and those health conditions – to receive their second booster (fourth dose) of the vaccine.

“It is necessary to redouble our efforts to protect vulnerable people, this is done through vaccination and this campaign of second boosters is absolutely necessary,” said the ministry of health.

The Covid incidence rate is increasing in more than 50 départements across France. Currently, there are an average of 50,000 positive tests per day, which has also been accompanied by an increase in hospitalisations. 

“This is very clearly a reprisal of the epidemic linked to the arrival of new variants of the Omicron family, which are called BA4 BA5,” said infectious disease specialist Anne-Claude Crémieux to Franceinfo. Crémieux added that these variants are faster-spreading.

Therefore, the government is calling on vulnerable people to take their second booster dose (the fourth dose of the vaccine).

So far, only a quarter of eligible people have taken their second booster dose, with an average rate of 25,000 to 30,000 injections per day for the past two months.

“This is not enough, and it is not going fast enough,” urged the Ministry of Health on Tuesday.

The Haute autorité de santé also recently released its recommendation for a vaccination campaign to give a second Covid vaccine booster shot for the wider population, starting in October. 

The HAS recommendation advises starting France’s annual flu vaccine campaign in mid October (mid September for the French overseas territory of Mayotte) and combining it with a campaign to give a second Covid vaccine booster ahead of a possible new wave of Covid in the winter. 

At present although the great majority of the French adult population is vaccinated against Covid with two doses and a booster, a second booster is only recommended for people in high risk groups such as the over 60s and those with long-term health conditions.

The HAS recommendation reads: “At the end of May, the HAS recommended preparing for a booster shot campaign for people most at risk of developing the most severe forms of Covid, and envisaged a booster shot for healthcare workers.

“Those parts of the population most at risk are also those for whom the seasonal flu vaccination is recommended, therefore for logistical reasons the HAS recommends combining the two campaigns.”

The flu campaign is advised to go ahead as normal, starting in mid-October.

The HAS only makes recommendations, the details of policy are up to the government, but it usually follows HAS advice.

The usual seasonal flu campaign in France offers a vaccine for free to anyone in a high risk group, which includes the elderly, people with underling health conditions, healthcare workers and pregnant women – full details HERE on how to get the vaccine.

Those who don’t fit into those categories can still access the vaccine, but must pay for it – €6-€10 for the vaccine and the standard appointment charge to have it administered by a doctor (€25, with 70 percent reimbursed for those with a carte vitale).

The flu vaccine is available from family doctors, midwives and participating pharmacies once the campaign officially launches.

The Covid vaccine is also available from family doctors, midwives and pharmacies, but most of the vaccine centres set up in 2021 have now been closed down.

There is currently no suggestion a return of the health pass, so a second booster shot would be entirely voluntary, but the government has the power to re-introduce such measures if a major wave of Covid hits France over the autumn and winter.

Currently, there are no plans to lower the age minimum (as of now set at 60 years old) for receiving a second booster. Health authorities believe that the immune response after a first booster “continues to sufficiently protect” younger adults.

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