France to end free Covid tests for all in October

France to end free Covid tests for all in October
Testing outside the Angers football ground. Photo: Jean-Francois Monier/AFP
The French prime minister has confirmed that Covid tests will no longer be free for all residents of France from the middle of October.

PM Jean Castex, in an interview with Les Echos newspaper, confirmed the date of October 15th when ‘convenience tests’ will have to be paid for.

After that date only tests done for medical reasons – people with symptoms or contact cases – will be free. Unvaccinated people will need a prescription to obtain a free test, vaccinated people will not need a prescription.

Castex told Les Echos: “The tests will continue to be reimbursed for medical reasons, either without a prescription for those already vaccinated, or with a prescription for others. In concrete terms, if you have a fever or symptoms corresponding to Covid-19, your test will still be free.”

The Health Ministry later clarified: “The idea is to encourage the vaccinated population to remain vigilant and to go and be tested in case of symptoms.”

The Ministry also clarified that pre-departure travel tests for fully vaccinated residents of France will remain free. These are less common since they are not required when travelling within the EU and from October 4th will not be required for trips to the UK, but are still applicable for some countries.

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The tests will remain free in all circumstances for under 18s and widespread testing in schools will continue.

Antigen tests will remain available on a walk-in basis at pharmacies.

The main aim of the new policy is to discourage unvaccinated people from using regular tests to access the health passport, since they will now have to pay, and get vaccinated instead.

“It is no longer legitimate to pay for convenience tests to excess at the expense of taxpayers,” added Castex.

Tests are capped at €29 for an antigen test or €49 for a PCR test, the same price as tests for tourists, who have been charged since July.

Testing in France has been free in all circumstances for residents of France since the beginning of the pandemic, and before the vaccination rollout began people were encouraged to take a test if they they intended to travel or visit vulnerable or elderly people.

In total France spent €2.2 billion on testing in 2020 – widespread testing for the general public began in the summer – and is projected to spend €4.9 billion in 2021.

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