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France and Germany bring in extra testing rules at border due to Covid variant fears

France and Germany will this week introduce tighter controls at their shared border, but for the moment the border will remain open despite fears in Germany of the spread of Covid virus variants from France's Moselle département.

France and Germany bring in extra testing rules at border due to Covid variant fears
French and German police will be stepping up border checks. Photo: AFP

German leaders last week raised the possibility of closing the border altogether after a ‘hotspot’ of cases of the South African and Brazilian variants of the virus in the French border area of Moselle.

German chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said Germany was “in a situation where we need to do everything to prevent more aggressive mutations of the virus spreading as quickly in Germany as they have elsewhere”.

However the border will remain open, but both French and German authorities have announced extra checks.

On Sunday, February 28th, Germany’s Robert Koch Institute announced that France’s Moselle département had been added to the list of ‘high risk’ areas for virus variants, triggering tougher testing requirements for entry to Germany.

The previous week, a joint press release from France’s health minister Olivier Véran and Europe minister Clément Beaune said: “On both sides of the border, we share the objective of preserving freedom of movement and enabling cross-border workers to continue their professional activity.”

France also tightened entry requirements from Germany, removing exemptions to the testing rule for certain types of travellers.

Although travel between France and Germany is allowed for any reason, entry into France requires a negative Covid test and a declaration of being symptom free. There had been some exemptions on the test requirement, but these have now been limited.

READ ALSO IN DETAIL The rules on entering France from an EU country 

Into France

From Monday, March 1st in order to enter France:

  • Only cross-border workers are be exempt from the testing requirement, everyone else (including people who live within 30km of the border who were previously exempt) must present at the border a negative Covid test taken within the previous 72 hours. Only PCR tests will be accepted.
  • Remote working for cross-border workers is to be reinforced to reduce the number of people travelling
  • Cross-border workers will instead be required to take a weekly Covid test. Only PCR tests will be accepted.

Into Germany

  • From Tuesday, March 2nd a Covid test no older than 48 hours will be required for all entrants into Germany from the Moselle département, with no exemption for cross-border workers. Germany initially specific that the tests must be PCR tests, but after discussions with French authorities clarified that the rapid-result antigen test will also be accepted. It is estimated that there are 16,000 people who cross the border every day from Moselle to work in Germany 
  • All non-German nationals also need to fill in a declaration – either online HERE or on paper – that they are free from symptoms
  • A PCR test no older than 48-hours old is needed to enter Germany from the rest of France. However, exemptions are made in several cases, including for cross-border workers and commuters. 

Both French and German police will be stepping up checks at the border, and the new testing requirements will apply to arrivals by road, rail and air.

The French ministers’ statement added: “These measures complement the arsenal deployed by the authorities in Moselle.

“Testing and screening capacities have been greatly increased (more than 60,000 tests carried out last week) in order to stop the spread of the virus and to identify more effectively the spread of variants. The strategy for identifying contact and isolation cases has also been strengthened (with the national self-isolation period extended from 7 to 10 days) and the accelerated vaccination campaign with 30,000 additional doses allocated to the department.

“Checks on compliance with the rules have been stepped up.”

Both countries will continue to monitor the situation.

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‘IT problems’ blamed for cancellation of flights from French airports

The French holiday weekend of Ascension has been hit by travel problems after Easyjet cancelled dozens of flights.

'IT problems' blamed for cancellation of flights from French airports

Easyjet announced on Thursday that it would have to cancel several dozen flights, many of which were set to depart from French airports like Paris Charles de Gaulle, Lyon, Toulouse and Nice.

The British budget airline tweeted an apology to the customers impacted, explaining that ‘IT system issues’ were to blame. 

In total, 200 flights across Europe were affected, confirmed the British newspaper The Independent.

Several customers expressed frustration at the hours-long wait times, many taking to Twitter to vent, like this user below:

So what happened?

Easyjet has not been very specific about the issue aside from explaining that the root of the problem was a computer system failure. They announced quickly that they were working to restore their systems and that in the meantime customers should continue to check Flight Tracker in order to verify the status of their flight prior to leaving for the airport.

While flights were set to resume on Friday, Thursday’s cancellations have had a domino effect, bringing about further delays and cancellations for flights originally scheduled for Friday. 

If you have flights booked, it is best, as stated above, to keep an eye on Flight Tracker in order to avoid potentially long wait-times at the airport.

Will passengers be compensated?

While Easyjet initially explained the IT problem as “beyond [their] control” and an “exceptional circumstance,” the company eventually retracted these statements and released a new statement saying that “Customers can request compensation in accordance with the regulations.” Here is the link to their website to find out more.

If you plan to request a refund, be advised that under European regulation for air passenger rights, travellers should be entitled to compensation between €260 to €410 per person depending on the duration of the flight, with the latter representing flight distances of over 1,500 km. Read more here.

Since Brexit, passengers departing from the UK may no longer be covered by the European compensation rules.

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