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Tests on the beach, sniffer dogs and tracing: France’s plan to keep Covid under control this summer

Free tests at beaches and campsites, Covid-sniffer dogs and a more expansive tracing system are among the measures France plans to put in place this summer in order to facilitate tourism.

Tests on the beach, sniffer dogs and tracing: France's plan to keep Covid under control this summer
Free Covid tests will be available on French beaches this summer. Photo: MEHDI FEDOUACH / AFP.

“With 2,000 to 3,000 cases per day, the virus is no longer hunting us, we are hunting the virus,” health minister Olivier Véran said as he unveiled the plans in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche.

Free self-test kits

The minister said that two million self-test kits will be distributed in July and August to coincide with the summer holidays. They will be handed out for free at the beach, on camp sites, in hotels and in gyms. Tests will also be available for schools to distribute to students ahead of the summer break.

The self-test kits are already available in pharmacies for a maximum price of €6.

Free tests for everyone, including tourists

Last month, the government announced that foreign visitors would not have to pay for the PCR or antigen tests which are a requirement for returning home to many countries.

Tests were already free in all circumstances – including for travel – to residents in France but this is now extended to visitors as well.

In France the rapid-result antigen tests (known as lateral flow tests in some countries) are available in pharmacies, most of which do not require appointments, while PCR tests can be booked at test centres or accessed in pop-up test centres.

READ ALSO How to get a Covid test in France

Sniffer dogs

Established Covid testing will be used alongside more experimental measures, which could include using sniffer dogs to detect infections.

The method will be the subject of two trials in the coming days.

“We now have proof that it works in real life thanks to very promising results obtained by the research teams and the AP-HP [hospitals group in Paris],” Véran told the JDD. “We’ll undertake a wider roll-out during the summer if the results are conclusive.”

Contact tracing

The contact tracing system will also be reinforced, with 2,000 people acting as trained Covid points of contact in holiday spots such as campsites, who will be able to administer tests and to help people to self-isolate.

Véran announced that contact-tracing will also become more exhaustive.

“Up until the spring, we only tracked down the contacts of a person who’d been infected. From the beginning of July and after trials, a thorough investigation will be undertaken to find out who infected them and under what circumstances. We will go back as far as possible,” the minister added, referencing the success of Japan’s retrospective contact tracing system.

Traffic light travel

France has adopted a traffic light system to control entry into the country which differentiates between vaccinated and non-vaccinated travellers.

It recently placed the United States and Canada on its green list, meaning visitors from those countries do not need an essential reason to enter France, and will not need to quarantine upon arrival – the same rules also apply to all entries from the EU and Schengen zone.

EXPLAINED How France’s traffic light system for travel works

Compulsory isolation

French officials are particularly focused on limiting the spread of the Delta variant – first identified in India – which currently represents between 2 and 4 percent of cases in France, but which now accounts for 90 percent of all cases in the UK.

To combat this “highly, highly contagious” variant, Véran told the JDD that isolation periods would be more strictly imposed. If a person refuses to self-isolate, “an alert will be sent to the Préfets [local authorities]. They can take measures to isolate them.”

Serenity?

“This summer will be different from the last, and certainly more serene for French people, because we have more tools at our disposal,” Véran added.

Member comments

  1. Ha,ha,ha who want to be tested if you feel well? just to have a holiday ruined by isolation? And than you’re sunbathing and drooling Bruno comes to sniff you, brilliant idea!

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LIVING IN FRANCE

France to roll out ID cards app

Technology is being rolled out to allow people to carry their French ID cards in an app form - and could be rolled out to other cards, including driving licences and cartes de séjour residency cards.

France to roll out ID cards app

Holders of French carte d’identité (ID cards) will soon be able to carry certified digital versions of them on their smartphone or other electronic devices, a decree published in the Journal Officiel has confirmed.

An official app is being developed for holders of the newer credit card-format ID cards that have information stored on a chip. A provisional test version of the app is expected at the end of May.

Users will be able to use the ID card app, when it becomes available, for a range of services “from checking in at the airport to renting a car”, according to Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market.

All French citizens have an ID card, which can be used for proving identity in a range of circumstances and for travel within the EU and Schengen zone – the new app will be in addition to the plastic card that holders already have.

Under the plans, after downloading the app, card holders will need merely to hold the card close to their phone to transfer the required information. According to officials, the holder then can decide what information is passed on – such as proof of age, or home address – according to the situation.

The government has not given any examples of situations in which the app would need to be used, but has set out the main principles and the ambition of the plan: to allow everyone to identify themselves and connect to certain public and private organisations, in particular those linked to the France Connect portal.

READ ALSO What is France Connect and how could it make your life simpler?

Cards will continue to be issued for the foreseeable future – this is merely an extension of the existing system.

Only French citizens have ID cards, but if successful the app is expected to be rolled out to include other cards, such as driving licences, cartes de séjour residency cards or even visas. A digital wallet is being developed at the European level – Member States have until September to agree what it could contain.

READ ALSO Eight smartphone apps that make life in France a bit easier

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