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HEALTH

Easing lockdown: What will change about international travel to and from France?

French President Emmanuel Macron has laid out a road map for ending the country's second lockdown. Here's how the plan will impact travel to and from France.

Easing lockdown: What will change about international travel to and from France?
Police at the French border. Photo: AFP

Until December 15th…

Before December 15th there will essentially be no change in the rules of travel to and from France.

That means it's not allowed unless travellers meet one of the strict criteria listed on the exemption certificates (attestation de déplacement dérogatoire) that people in France must carry whenever they leave the home. Valid reasons include an vital family reason (but not a family visit) or for work. Travel to second homes does not count as essential.

This rule has been in place since the start of the second lockdown on October 30th.

While France's borders with EU and Schengen-area countries have officially remained open, the second lockdown meant tourism to France has been banned as has non-essential visits to family members. Those who own second homes in France have not been allowed to travel to the country.

Although those who are due to move to France in the next few weeks are permitted to go ahead with the move.

After December 15th

Macron announced on Tuesday that France would end its second lockdown on December 15th, albeit only if the number of daily infections dropped below 5,000 and the pressure was eased on hospitals.

If all goes to plan, then lockdown would end and along with it the exemption certificates. That would mean non-essential travel from within the EU, the UK and Schengen area would once again be permitted.

This means tourist, family visits and trips to second homes in France would again be permitted.

However travellers would be advised to check the conditions and rules of travel from their home country regarding France. For example the UK is still advising against all non-essential travel abroad which impacts travel insurance policies.

Many countries also have rules in place regarding arrivals from France.

The UK requires anyone arriving into the country from France to quarantine. However the period of quarantine will be cut to five days from 14 after December 15th – if travellers take a test which they may have to pay for.

READ ALSO Which countries are imposing quarantines and testing on arrivals from France?

And travel from outside the EU Schengen area?

Nothing has changed on this front in recent weeks and months. Essentially the EU are closed to all non-essential travellers apart from those on an ever-shortening list of safe countries.

Anyone travelling into France from outside the EU, UK or Schengen area needs an attestation de déplacement international dérogatoire (the international exemption certificate), which is required for those travelling in from outside the EU-Schengen area.

Residents of France can return to the country from outside the EU and foreigners currently in France are also allowed to return to their country of residence.

Will the UK still be exempt from travel restrictions after December 31st?

On January 1st 2021 the Brexit transition period ends and Britain officially becomes a non-EU country. The European Commission told The Local that a  decision is yet to be made whether or not the UK will be added to a list of countries who are exempt from the current travel restrictions.

“At the end of the transition period, the Council will have to consider the addition of the United Kingdom to the list of third countries exempted from travel restrictions. This is a decision for the Council to make,” the spokesperson said.

What about the ski season ion the French Alps?

France's ski resorts, among the most popular in Europe, will not be allowed to reopen in time for the year-end holiday season, Macron said on Tuesday.

The president said coronavirus risks made it “impossible” to allow winter sports to resume quickly.

Macron said he would consult with his European partners to coordinate start dates for the winter season.

It was preferable, Macron said, to plan for a re-opening of the resorts in January “under favourable conditions”. He promised an update with 10 days.

Do I need a negative test result on arrival in France?

At the start of the second lockdown the French Prime Minister Jean Castex made it clear anyone arriving in the country would have to undergo a Covid-19 test – previously this was only the the case for travellers from certain high risk countries.

“Anyone arriving in the country will have to prove a negative test carried out 72 hours in advance. And for those who do not have the result of a test, a test on arrival will be imposed,” he said.

Although the PM said this would be the case for all travellers, at present testing only seems to have been rolled out at airports, not ferry ports, the Channel Tunnel or road crossings, however it's possible it will be extended to these locations in the weeks to come.

Testing is free at airports and uses the antigen test – a nasal swab test which gives a result in 15 minutes.

 

 

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POLITICS

‘Public opinion is ready’ – These French senators want to legalise marijuana

A group of 31 French senators of the Socialist, Green and Republican parties have come together to write a statement calling for the legalisation of marijuana in France.

'Public opinion is ready' - These French senators want to legalise marijuana

France is known for having some of the strictest laws regarding marijuana consumption in Europe – while simultaneously maintaining one of the highest rates of cannabis usage in the EU. 

A group of French senators – coming from the Socialist, Green and centre-right Les Républicains parties – are trying to change those laws, and have come together to call for marijuana to be legalised in France.

The group of 31 co-signed a statement published in French newspaper, Le Monde, on Wednesday, August 10th.

In the statement, the senators promised to launch a ‘consultation process’ to submit a bill to legalise marijuana “in the coming months.”

The proposition was headed by Senator Gilbert-Luc Devinaz, a member of the Socialist Party, and gained support from the party’s leader, Patrick Kanner.

READ MORE: The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

A report by the Assemblé Nationale, which was published in May 2021, estimated that nearly 18 million French people (more than 25 percent of the population) had already consumed marijuana, and that an additional 1.5 million consume it regularly.

This, coupled with the 2019 finding that nearly one in two French people (45 percent) said they were in favour of legalisation, according to a survey by the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), helped strengthen the senators’ position.

“Public opinion is ready, the legislature must act,” they wrote.

Their senators argue that legalising marijuana in France will allow the authorities to better protect French citizens, saying that legalising would not require “minimising the health impacts of cannabis consumption” but rather would allow regulation similar to “public policies for tobacco, alcohol or gambling.”

For the group of 31 senators, the benefits of legalisation would involve a better control over the “health quality of products consumed,” “curbing trafficking in disadvantaged areas,” developing large-scale prevention plans,” and finally the taxation of cannabis products and redirection of law enforcement resources. Decriminalisation – in their opinion – would not be sufficient as this would simply “deprive authorities the ability to act,” in contrast to legalisation. 

READ MORE: Is France moving towards legalising cannabis for recreational purposes?

“In the long term, new tax revenues would be generated from the cannabis trade and from savings in the justice and police sectors”, which would make it possible to mobilize “significant resources for prevention as well as for rehabilitation and economic development,” wrote the senators.

In France, the conversation around cannabis has evolved in recent years – former Health Minister (and current government spokesman) Olivier Véran said to France Bleu in September 2021 that “countries that have gone towards legalisation have results better than those of France in the last ten years,” adding that he was interested in the potential therapeutic use of cannabis.

Currently, the drug is illegal in France. Previously, it fell under a 1970-law of illicit drug use, making it punishable with up to a year prison and an up to €3,750 fine.

However, in 2020, the government softened the penalties, making it possible for those caught consuming it to opt for an on-the-spot fine of €200.

There is also an ongoing trial involving 3,000 patients to test the impacts of medical marijuana usage, particularly with regard to pain relief. 

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