UPDATE: France to impose stricter Covid-19 testing at airports for arrivals from 16 countries

France's prime minister has announced that the country is tightening up border controls and will impose compulsory Covid-19 testing for travellers from 16 countries considered high-risk.

UPDATE: France to impose stricter Covid-19 testing at airports for arrivals from 16 countries
Covid-19 tests will be compulsory for some passengers. Photo: AFP

Prime minister Jean Castex, while on a visit to Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport, has announced tighter health checks for people entering the country.

The extra checks will be focused on people entering from 16 countries designated as 'red' for Covid-19 circulation – all countries which are not on the EU's safe travel list.

The 16 countries are; the USA, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrein, Panama, South Africa, Kuwait, Qatar, Israel, Brazil, Peru, Serbia, Algeria, Turkey, Madagascar, India and Oman.

Arrivals from the USA, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Panama must present a negative Covid-19 test result – taken within the previous 72 hours – before they will be allowed to board a plane to France.

Travellers from the other 12 countries are advised to take the test before travelling, but can take it in the airport on arrival in France.

Prime minister Jean Castex at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport on Friday afternoon. Photo: AFP

France does not allow general travel to and from these countries but certain people are allowed to enter including French nationals or permanent residents of France of other EU countries, as well as certain other more specific groups.

The tests will be for “French citizens who live in these countries or citizens of these countries with an established residence in France,” Castex told reporters at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport.

France has now announced that those people will have to have a Covid-19 test before they will be allowed into the country.

At present several French airports, including both Paris airports, Bordeaux and Lyon, offer testing on a voluntary basis to passengers arriving on French soil.

People arriving from Europe, the UK, the Schengen zone or the 12 countries currently on the EU safe list will not be compelled to take a test, but can if they want.

Testing is done in the airport and the results emailed out within 48 hours. Tests are free.

People are allowed to leave the airport after their test, but are advised to self isolate until they get the results. If the result is positive they must observe a 14-day quarantine.

Castex told reporters on Friday that arrivals from 'red' countries represent around 3,000 people a day. He said testing would begin immediately and the system would be totally operational by August 1st.

French airports already have extra health measures in place such as temperature screening for arrivals.

READ ALSO Covid-19: What to expect when you arrive at a French airport

There had been speculation that France could close the border with Spain after a spike in cases in Catalonia, but this was not announced.

Nevertheless, Castex said that “we strongly advise French citizens to avoid visiting Catalonia until the health situation improves”.

As for people travelling to France from Spain, “we are in talks with the Spanish and Catalan authorities so that… they try to limit the flow as much as possible,” he said.

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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).