EXPLAINED: What tourists in France should do if they think they have Covid-19

What do you do if you travel to France and think you might have contracted coronavirus?

EXPLAINED: What tourists in France should do if they think they have Covid-19
France's strategy to prevent a resurgence in the number of coronavirus cases is to test anyone presenting the slightest symptoms. Photo: AFP

With international travel resuming for many countries, a steady stream of tourists are now arriving in France.

But while the French government has succeeded in curbing the spread of the coronavirus in the country, the virus has far from disappeared.

So, like in any country where there still exists cases of the coronavirus, there is of course a chance that visitors might become infected.

So what should you do if you suspect you might have become infected by the virus?

During the journey

If you develop symptoms during your trip over you should alert the crew so that they can help you with the next steps.

READ ALSO: What you should know about travel between France and the UK after July 10th

Upon arrival

Travellers get their temperature automatically checked upon arrival at some airports in France. Paris' airports operate with general temperature screenings of all arrivals and travellers flagged as having an abnormally high body temperature will proceed to a contact-less individual temperature check.

Anyone whose individual temperature check shows a temperature above 38C will be asked to do a coronavirus test on the spot. Passengers who turn out to be coronavirus positive will be placed in a mandatory 14 day quarantine, either in a hotel or in a place of their own choosing.

Travel to France: The health rules and guidelines tourists should know about

When in France

When you are in France you should follow the government's general health advice, which means wearing a mask on public transport and in all indoor public spaces, washing your hands frequently, sneezing and coughing into your elbow and respect one metre social distancing.

The government has set up a covid-19 hotline (+33 800 130 000), free of charge and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which they ask people to turn to for all non-medical questions.

The service is however French and operators may not speak English.

A woman gets a coronavirus PCR test in France. Photo: AFP

If you have symptoms..

If during your stay you experience coronavirus symptoms – cough, fever, muscle pain, loss of smell or taste etc – you are advised to get an appointment with a doctor to get a prescription for a coronavirus test.

“People with symptoms are encouraged to get tested,” the French health ministry told The Local in an email.

This is the case both for tourists and the French (more on how to get tested below).

The health ministry said: “While waiting for the test and the result, you are advised to limit contact with other people as much as possible, even if it means canceling outings or visits.”

The waiting time for the results is usually a day or two.

If you're having trouble breathing or if you need immediate medical help, dial the French emergency number, 15 (or 112,  the European number that works in any European country). If you have a speech or hearing impairment you can send an SMS to 114.

This photo shows the government's general advice for anyone in France who shows coronavirus symptoms. Photo: French health ministry

If you are in contact with a covid positive person..

Let's say you are in a hotel, a campsite or gite and find out that someone has been confirmed as coronavirus positive. What do you do?

“If you have been in personal contact with the person in question, isolate yourself, contact a doctor and get tested,” the health ministry said.

“We understand that this is particularly frustrating, but this is a rare situation, and if those who are unlucky enough to experience it go through the effort it will prevent the virus from spreading and many others from having the same problem,” they wrote.

If you can, self-isolate where you are. If this is not possible, ask the operators of the hotel, gite or campsite for advice. French regional authorities have set up special centres (often empty hotels) for people who lack a place to stay during their quarantine.

How do you get tested?

France has extensively ramped up its testing capacities and while the government's policy earlier was to only test vulnerable persons and people at special risk of having been infected, to also test everyone who presents symptoms or who have been in touch with a coronavirus positive person.

'The only good strategy': How France is trying to stop a coronavirus resurgence

To find a doctor, simply go online and search for a médécin généraliste in your area. If possible, get a téléconsultation (virtual appointment) or a visite domicile (home visit), the government advice states. If these two options aren't available, get an appointment in the doctor's office. Wear a mask when you go there.

If you're in Paris there are also some pop-up testing centres that do not require an appointment, including at the Paris plages locations.

The doctor will prescribe you a test, but it may take a few days between the doctor's appointment and the actual test.

While waiting for your test and the test results you are advised to wear a mask in public at all times to avoid potentially contaminating others.

If it turns out you have the coronavirus?

If the test comes back positive, you are to self-isolate until “you and those living in the same household have fully recovered from the virus,” the government advice states.


Une ordonnance – a prescription

Dépistage – testing

Un test covid – a covid test

Un médecin généraliste – a GP

Quatorzaine – 14-day quarantine

Rendez-vous – appointment

Téléconsultation – virtual appoitnment

Visite domicile – home visit

FOR MEMBERS: The essential French language you'll need if you're ill



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Where in France do you still need a face mask?

In France, masks will no longer be required on indoor transport as of Monday, May 16th. Here are rules and recommendations that are still in place:

Where in France do you still need a face mask?

Members of the public in France have been asked to wear face masks for the most part of two years, at times even outside in the street.

Since March 14th, 2022, the facial coverings have no longer been mandatory in most establishments such as shops, and as of Monday, May 16th, it will no longer be mandatory on indoor public transport. 

As of May 16th, you will therefore no longer be required to wear a mask in the following transports:

  • Buses and coaches
  • Subways and streetcars
  • RER and TER
  • TGV and interregional lines
  • Taxis

Regarding airplanes whether or not you must wear a mask is a bit more complicated.

On Wednesday, May 11th, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announced that from May 16th onward it would no longer be required to wear a mask in airports and on board aircraft in the European Union. However, Germany has stated that it does not have the intention of lifting its requirement of wearing a mask on its airlines – this would include the Lufthansa airline. Thus, it will be necessary for passengers to still very to rules each airline has in place, which could be the case when travelling to a country that still has indoor mask requirements in place.

EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky specified that vulnerable people should continue to wear masks, and that “a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, to reassure those seated nearby.”

Masks still obligatory in medical settings

However, it will still be mandatory for caregivers, patients and visitors in health care facilities, specifically including hospitals, pharmacies, medical laboratories, retirement homes, and establishments for the disabled. 

For people who are vulnerable either due to their age or their status as immunocompromised, wearing a mask will continue to be recommended, though not required, particularly for enclosed spaces and in large gatherings.

Masks are also still recommended for people who test positive, people who might have come in contact with Covid-19, symptomatic people and healthcare professionals.

Will masks come back?

It is possible. French Health Minister Olivier Véran does not exclude the return of mandatory mask-wearing, should the health situation require it.

What are the other Covid-19 restrictions that remain in place?

The primary restriction that has not changed is the French government’s regulation for testing positive: If you are unvaccinated and test positive, isolation is still required for 10 days, if you are vaccinated, this requirement is seven days. Isolation can be reduced from 10 to 7 days or from 7 to 5 days if a negative covid test is performed, and symptoms are no longer present.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What Covid restrictions remain in place in France?

The French Health Ministry still recommends following sanitary measures such as: wearing a mask in places where it is still mandatory, hand washing, regular ventilation of rooms, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, and using a single-use handkerchief (tissue).