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LIVING IN FRANCE

LATEST: France aims to reopen borders for European travel from June 15th

France hopes to reopen its borders to travel from within Europe from June 15th, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has announced.

LATEST: France aims to reopen borders for European travel from June 15th
Photo: AFP

Travel into France is currently heavily restricted with only essential travel allowed, travellers also need to present an international travel certificate at the border.

However Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, while announcing the next phase of lifting of lockdown restrictions, said on Thursday that France would begin talks with other Europe countries to lift border restrictions from June 15th.

Several other EU countries, including Germany, have already committed to reopening borders on June 15th, but until now France had only said that it would review its restrictions on that date.

Now it seems likely that all travel from within the EU (which for this purpose includes the UK) will be allowed without restriction from then.

However travellers arriving from the UK or Spain are still the subject to a voluntary quarantine, which France introduced as a reciprocal measure for those countries' quarantines.

READ ALSO Who will be quarantined on arrival in France?

The EU borders remain closed to travellers from outside Europe, and the lifting of those will be a matter for discussion among European countries, the PM added.

Until June 15th the current regulations remain in place for travel with France saying EU countries will coordinate to agree a new position for what happens after June 15th.

Anyone travelling into France currently needs une attestation de déplacement internationale (international travel certificate).

Full details on the certificate be can found here.

French citizens can return to the country, but anyone coming from within Europe (including the UK) will need to meet one of the following criteria to be allowed into the country:

  • People who have their primary residence in France. This does NOT include second home owners. Third country nationals will need to present a visa or residency card while EU nationals (which for this purpose still includes British people) do not need any proof of residency status.
  • People who have their permanent residency in another European country and are travelling through France to get home
  • Healthcare workers engaged in coronavirus-related care
  • Commercial good carriers such as lorry drivers and flight or cargo crews
  • Diplomatic staff
  • Cross-border workers. So for example if you live in France but work in Switzerland you can still travel back and forth.

Certificates are being checked at the border and when boarding transport to France and the French police can and will turn people back – as happened to this private jet from London full of people planning a holiday in Cannes.

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HEALTH

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. 

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