SHARE
COPY LINK

HEALTH

French police block passengers as new Covid travel rules kick in

French border police turned away some passengers bound for non-EU destinations Monday as new rules came into force banning flights to and from countries outside the bloc.

French police block passengers as new Covid travel rules kick in
Travellers prepare their documents as they queue at the immigration desk of the Charles-de-Gaulle international airport, on February 1st. Photo: AFP

Prime Minister Jean Castex announced the measure Friday as part of new efforts to contain Covid-19 infections and avoid another nationwide lockdown.

Travellers must also present proof of a recent negative Covid test. 

Only urgent reasons for travel are accepted and border police require written proof before allowing passengers to board, as Toure, a Malian national, found out when he tried to leave France for Bamako without the necessary document.

“I said that my mother, whom I hadn't seen in a while, was ill but they told me I needed proof,” Toure, who withheld his last name, told AFP in the 2E terminal at Paris's main airport Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle. 

After being turned away Toure, who works for a French public works foundation, managed to get hold of his mother's doctor in Bamako who sent him a barely legible note by WhatsApp. He tried again, and this time was waved through.

EXPLAINED: Who can travel after France closed its non-EU borders?

By curbing international travel, the government hopes to get a better grip on the circulation of the coronavirus and its recent variants, which have been spreading at a fearsome pace.

 'There could be sanctions' –

“The idea is to limit the outbound-inbound loops between France and abroad,” Julien Gentile, head of the border police for the Roissy and Le Bourget airports, told AFP.

Passengers must first show the required documentation at airline counters during check-in, but some carriers have already fallen foul of the authorities for failing to stop passengers without a Covid test.

READ ALSO How to get a Covid test in France 

“If airlines fail to meet the requirement in terms of health checks, there could be sanctions,” a transport ministry spokesman told AFP.

Last week, Ethiopian Airlines was banned from flying to France for four days after failing to check passengers for tests, and the government warned all carriers that failing to comply with the requirements could eventually lead to a temporary, or even indefinite, ban.

IN DETAIL: What travel restrictions does France have in place?

Passengers must also present a valid written excuse at border control, where agents were no longer allowing automated passport scanning but instead checked each document, as passenger queues grew longer.

The time needed per passenger can easily reach five or 10 minutes, compared with just seconds usually, as agents try to determine what is an “urgent” motive and what isn't. 

“If you want to visit the grave of somebody who didn't die recently you can't go, even if that may seem cruel,” said Cecile Aerdeman, head of the airports' border service. “You will have to wait until the health situation
changes.”

READ ALSO: When will Americans be able to travel to France again?

President Emmanuel Macron has decided, for now, not to impose a third national lockdown, choosing a different path than France's neighbours such as Britain and Germany.

Health Minister Olivier Véran said Sunday that the number of new coronavirus cases had barely increased over the past week, while other indicators – such as traces of the virus detected in waste water – were also reassuring.

The French government put in place a strict nighttime curfew after a second lockdown ended in December, while deaths of around 250 a day are currently less than a quarter of the number in Britain or Germany.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

HEALTH

Experts warn of high levels of flu in France this winter

Experts have warned of a particularly bad flu epidemic this winter in France due to a combination of lowered immune systems and 'vaccine apathy' - urging high-risk groups to get their shot as soon as the flu vaccination campaign begins in October.

Experts warn of high levels of flu in France this winter

France’s annual flu vaccine campaign will officially get under way on October 18th this year – and medical experts have warned that this year’s season may be a bad one amid fears of “vaccine apathy”.

When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters in France this autumn

Immunologist Alain Fischer, who chaired France’s Conseil d’orientation de la stratégie vaccinale throughout the Covid-19 pandemic said that the high number of flu cases in Australia and the southern hemisphere in its winter were “a warning sign” that this winter’s flu, coupled with rising cases of Covid-19, could lead to a sharp rise in hospitalisations again in the winter.

“For two years, influenza has been kept at bay, thanks to the barrier measures we have put in place against Covid,” he told Le Parisien. 

“This year, it will be difficult to maintain the same level of protection: masks, distancing, intensive hand washing … Faced with this relaxation, there is a serious risk of flu epidemic.”

Between two million and six million people contract flu every winter in France. The infection is responsible for between 4,000 and 6,000 deaths every year, usually among people aged 65 and over. But in ‘bad’ flu years, that mortality figure can rise rapidly.

READ ALSO When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters this autumn in France

The country, meanwhile, is at the start of what is being described as an “eighth wave” of Covid, and the Haute Autorité de santé recommends the eligible, vulnerable people ensure they are vaccinated against both viruses as early as possible. “A Covid-flu cohabitation is not a good thing,”  Fischer said. “It is synonymous with a very high number of hospitalisations. 

“Hence the objective of two strong vaccination campaigns – Covid and flu – especially for the most vulnerable.”

“The double injection is very good, and practical for patients. But I think that we should not wait, especially vulnerable people. It is a mistake to think that you will get your Covid booster when the flu vaccine is here – the Covid jab should not be delayed.”

Currently less than 40 percent of people eligible for a fourth Covid vaccine have received their latest dose.

Dual-strain Covid-19 vaccines designed to combat both delta and omicron variants will be available in France from October 3rd.

READ ALSO France approves new vaccines for Covid Omicron sub-variants

“It is quite possible to get your Covid injection in early October and flu vaccine in late October – you will need both anyway,” Fischer said.

The Haute Autorité de Santé recommends influenza vaccination for the following groups:

  • people aged 65 and over; 
  • people with chronic diseases; 
  • pregnant women;
  • people suffering from obesity (BMI equal to or greater than 40 kg/m 2 );
  • Infants under 6 months at risk of serious influenza;
  • Families and others close to immunocompromised people; 
  • home help workers caring for vulnerable individuals.

For anyone in these groups, the flu vaccine is 100 percent covered by health insurance and delivered free of charge to the pharmacy, on presentation of a voucher.

SHOW COMMENTS