Should you get a Covid-19 test in France before travelling over Christmas?

French pharmacies are now advertising the rapid-result antigen tests for Covid-19, so is it worth getting one of these done before travelling to see friends and family at Christmas?

Should you get a Covid-19 test in France before travelling over Christmas?
Rapid-result Covid tests are now available in many areas on a walk-in basis. Photo: AFP

Despite the health data being less good that hoped, France will still lift its lockdown on December 15th, meaning that travel to see friends and relatives over the Christmas period will be possible.

But is it a good idea to get tested before you go?

After major problems in the spring with shortages, France has considerably ramped up its testing capacity and is now testing more than 1 million people a week.

There are several different routes to testing and now two different types of test available.

If you have symptoms or are alerted as a contact case of someone who has tested positive for the virus, you can book an appointment for a test at the laboratoires. These are appointment-only and offer the PCR nasal swab tests.

There are also walk-in centres for testing which do not require appointments, but some of these prioritise health workers or people with symptoms or have had contact with a possible case, so check before you go. These also offer PCR tests.

And the more recent development is widespread antigen testing. This is a nasal swab test, but instead of being sent to a lab to be processed, they produce results within 15 minutes. These type of tests are less accurate than PCR tests, but are useful for situations where widespread testing with quick results is needed – such as at airports. The tests are now being used at almost all of France's airports for new arrivals, but are also increasingly available at pharmacies on a walk-in basis.

So is it worth getting a test if you are intending to travel and see family over the holidays?

Some experts say that their lower reliability levels, particularly for people who don't have symptoms, make them worthless, while others worry that having a negative test result will make people complacent and more likely to neglect basic hygiene precautions.


This question was addressed by Health Minister Olivier Véran during a press conference and this is what he said:

“On paper it is a good idea, but there are risks that come with getting the test.

“There is a risk that the test will be negative even if you carry the virus.

“There is also the risk that a person gets tested and then neglects the hygiene gestures or becomes complacent about wearing a mask.

“Please don’t use the test as a kind of totem of immunity, it’s risky for you and for your loved ones.”

He stressed that the best protection remains limiting social interactions as far as possible, keeping numbers low at gatherings and ensuring good hygiene.

People who get PCR tests also risk overloading laboratory systems that are needed for patients with symptoms or contact cases, although this is less of a problem with the antigen tests which can be done by pharmacies.

If people do decide to get tested before travel, experts advise that the test should be done five days in advance, followed by a period of self-isolation before the travel date.




Member comments

  1. There is a PCR covid test that can be done on your saliva (I bought mine online for only 40€ from Axiotis) – I heartily recommend it to anyone sick of the extremely painful nasal one.

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‘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.