Jean-Yves Le Drian, speaking on French radio station LCI, said: ” As of Wednesday, May 20th we will ask French people returning from other countries outside Europe to voluntarily submit to a 14-day quarantine to protect themselves and their loved ones.”
In practice this will not affect many people, since the EU's external borders are closed to all non-essential travel.
However French citizens or people who have their permanent residence in France or another EU country are allowed to travel back from outside the EU or Schengen zone.
— LCI (@LCI) May 19, 2020
Le Drian stressed: “The borders outside the EU will remain closed. A foreign citizen from outside Europe cannot enter.”
The EU's external borders remain closed “until further notice”.
France has not actually closed its borders to travel from inside Europe (which for this purpose still includes the UK) but all non-essential travel is banned and anyone entering France needs an international travel certificate.
These controls will remain in place until at least June 15th. On that date some countries – including Germany – have committed to reopening their borders but France has committed only to reviewing their rules.
Le Drian added: “Concerning the internal borders, we have reciprocity agreements with neighbouring countries and one can imagine that progressively, provided lifting lockdown works and the pandemic does not resume, we will be able to reconsider these closure measures,” said Le Drian.
“I think that progressively from June 15th, we will be able to start a generalised easing, at least that is what I hope.”
France's main Charles-de-Gaulle airport, north of Paris, has installed thermal cameras to detect arriving passengers with a high fever, one of the symptoms of coronavirus infection.
In a separate interview, the junior transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebarri said that the reopening of Paris' Orly airport could be envisaged by the end of June, of the health situation allowed.
Jean-Baptiste Djebarri travaille sur l'hypothèse d'une réouverture de l'aéroport d'Orly fin juin pic.twitter.com/WMx6kqzwB6
— BFMTV (@BFMTV) May 19, 2020
As international air travel collapsed with the introduction of lockdown, Orly closed its doors in March. Traffic into Paris airports in April was 98.6 percent down on the previous year.
The issue of quarantines has become a slightly complicated one for France.
The country announced its own quarantine measures for people travelling from outside Europe, which are expected to be introduced once the EU's external borders reopen. So far there has not been a detailed plan published on these measures.
France had not initially envisaged a quarantine for arrivals from inside the EU or Schengen zone countries, but after Spain announced that it would quarantine all arrivals, France said that it would do the same to arrivals from Spain on the “principle of reciprocity”.
The situation with the UK is even more complicated after the British government announced plans to “soon” quarantine all arrivals into the country.
Shortly after that announcement a joint statement from French president Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this would not apply to people travelling between France and the UK, but less that a week later a spokesman for the British PM said there was no French exemption.
A joint working group is still looking at the issue and the UK has so far not announced a start date for its quarantine.