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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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TRAVEL NEWS

Driving in France: Motorway tolls rise from February 1st

The cost of using France’s motorway network rose by a below-inflation average of 4.75 percent on Wednesday, February 1st.

Driving in France: Motorway tolls rise from February 1st

Going through the toll booths on France’s motorway network now costs more – though the average 4.75 percent increase remains below inflation, and is lower than the price rise of between 7 percent and 8 percent predicted last September after Transport Minister Clément Beaune called for “reasonable increases”.

“We are well below the reference inflation rate of 6.33 percent,” Vinci Autoroutes, which manages nearly half of the French network, said in a statement.

Even so, motorists may not appreciate the motorway companies’ efforts to ease the effects of the cost of living crisis, as prices rise unevenly across the board.

A journey from Toulon, in the Var, to Mandelieu, in Alpes-Maritimes (113km) now costs €13 in tolls, up from €12.10 in 2022 – an increase of 7.4 percent.

Drivers heading between Lyon and Montpellier now have to pay an extra €1.90 to make their journey, up 6.7 percent on last year’s prices; and motorists will have to pay an additional €2.10 to make the five-hour journey along the A4 between Paris and Strasbourg.

In recent years, the annual rate of the annual increases has been lower. Tolls went up 2 percent on average last year, and just 0.44 percent in 2021. The annual increases are based on a formula that takes into account the rate of inflation and the amount of maintenance work undertaken, which is written into the motorway operators’ contracts with the government.

For home-work trips, Vinci Autoroutes has frozen the prices of 70 percent of trips of less than 30 km, as well as “half of trips of less than 50km and the bypass routes of 35 towns”.

The stretches between Aubagne and Cassis (Bouches-du-Rhône) on the A50, between Villefranche-de-Lauragais and Toulouse sud (Haute-Garonne) on the A61, and between Orléans nord and Olivet (Loiret) on the A10, for example, will see no price increase.

Subscribers to the Ulys 30 electronic toll system, meanwhile, now receive 40 percent concessions, compared to 30 percent previously on their regular commuter route.

According to Vinci, for every €10 in tolls, €4 is then paid to the government in taxes; €3.50 covers maintenance, modernisation and operating costs; and the remainder repays investors and services debts.

However, motorway operators are regularly singled out for the scale of their profits, recorded at €3.9 billion in 2021, 11 percent more than in 2019. 

If you’re driving in French towns and cities, remember that you may need a Crit’Air sticker – full details HERE.

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