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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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COVID-19

Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

With a sharp rise in reported cases in recent weeks, France appears to be in the middle of a new wave of Covid infections - so what measures are the government taking to control it?

Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

Recorded case numbers in France are now over 50,000 a week, and have been since the beginning of June – this is a long way short of the 350,000 weekly cases recorded in January but still the highest since May and representing a steady an increase of 57 percent on the previous week.

Hospital admissions are also on the rise – standing at 707 admissions on Friday, June 24th compared to 400 daily admissions just two weeks earlier.

So what is the French government doing about it?

Since March, almost all Covid-related restrictions have been lifted in France – the health pass is no longer required for everyday activities such as visiting a bar or going to the gym and face masks are now merely advised in all indoor locations. Only hospitals and other health establishments such as nursing homes still have mandatory rules on face masks and health passes.

For international travel, fully vaccinated arrivals from most countries – including the UK, US and the whole of the EU – need only to show proof of vaccination, while unvaccinated travellers need to show proof of a recent negative Covid test – full details HERE.

Health pass

A proposed bill from the health ministry that was leaked to French media talks about re-imposing some form of pass sanitaire (health pass) to get numbers under control.

Some caveats to add here is that the document is only a proposal at this stage and the government has explicitly rules out – for the moment – reintroducing the vaccine pass. The health pass can be used to show either proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test, so it is less restrictive for the unvaccinated.

The document suggests re-introducing a health pass for travel – both to and from France – not for everyday activities like going to a café.

Testing and contact tracing

The bill also proposes extending the software involved in contact tracing and the Covid testing programme until March 2023, although this is described as a ‘precaution’.

Testing remains available on a walk-in basis at most French pharmacies and by appointment at health centres and medical labs. Tests are free for fully-vaccinated residents of France who have a carte vitale. Those are only visiting France, who are not registered in the French health system or who are not vaccinated have to pay – prices are capped at €22 for an antigen test and €54 for a PCR test.

READ ALSO How tourists in France can get a Covid test

Masks

The government’s Covid vaccine adviser Alain Fischer told France Info that he was in favour of making face masks compulsory on public transport again and said it is ‘being discussed” at government level.

At present masks are not required, but are recommended, especially on busy services where it is impossible to practice social distancing.

Epidemiologist Pascal Crépey said: “In crowded trains, the risk of being in the presence of infected people is high. It would be a good idea for the population to wear the mask, to protect especially the most fragile and avoid massive infection rates.”

Local measures

French local authorities also have the power to impose certain types of restrictions if their area has a particularly high rate of infections.

At present, none have done so, but Nice mayor Christian Estrosi has spoken in favour of possibly bringing back the vaccine pass over the summer.

Second booster shots

A second booster shot of the Covid vaccine is now available to all over 60s and anyone who has a long-term medical condition or who is otherwise at risk from Covid.

It is recommended that the government increase public messaging advising those in high risk groups to get the second booster shot. The medical regular HAS has advised combining second booster shots with the seasonal flu vaccine campaign in September and October.

France is not, at present, considering widening the campaign to the entire popular, but the EU’s vaccine commissioner Thierry Breton says that if necessary, there would be enough doses to cover the whole population.

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