Covid tests for travel no longer free in France from October 15

Only tests for genuine medical reasons will continue to be free, and then only with a prescription for non-vaccinated people

27 September 2021
An image of a pharmacist carrying out a Covid-19 test on a person with their back to the camera

Currently 75.7% of people in France have received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine Pic: HQuality / Shutterstock

By Joanna York and Hannah Thompson

‘Comfort’ Covid tests in France – such as for travel, or if you have no medical symptoms – will cease to be free for all from October 15. 

Tests for genuine medical reasons will continue to be reimbursed but non vaccinated people will need to have a prescription.

Prime Minister Jean Castex confirmed the new rules yesterday (September 26).

Covid tests are currently free for everyone in France, regardless of their reason for taking the test.

From October 15, the rules will change to mean: 

  • Unvaccinated adults will have to pay for all tests, even if they are taking them voluntarily for medical reasons (such as Covid symptoms), except if they have a doctor’s prescription specifically mandating the test.

  • Tests for vaccinated adults will be reimbursed by the Assurance maladie when taken for medical reasons (such as Covid symptoms), with or without a prescription.

  • Vaccinated adults will still have to pay for “comfort” tests taken for non-medical reasons, such as if they have no symptoms, or if taken prior to travel.

  • All tests will be free for children.

Mr Castex told Les Echos: “The idea is to reimburse tests taken for reasons that are truly medical, and to continue to encourage people to get vaccinated.”

Tests have been free in France since the start of the health crisis, with the state covering all fees. This came at a cost of €2.2billion in 2020, and is expected to cost €4.9billion in 2021.

The prime minister’s announcement comes as daily vaccination rates are falling. 

The latest figures show that 74.7% of people in France have received at least one dose of vaccination and 71.6% are fully vaccinated against Covid.

Currently, adults and children aged over 12 are eligible for vaccination.

In this age range, 10% of over 75s are not vaccinated, along with 15% of 30-49-year-olds and 29% of 12-27-year-olds.

How much will tests cost in France? 

PCR tests will cost €49 (where paid for). Rapid antigen tests will cost €29.

How do the costs of tests in France compare to other countries?

The cost of tests in European countries varies considerably. France compares relatively well to most. 

PCR tests are always more expensive than antigen tests.

Research by Le Figaro has shown that average test costs, when the tests must be paid for (as opposed to paid for by the state in the case of medical tests for symptomatic people) for the some of the most popular European travel destinations are as follows: 

  • Belgium - PCR: €40.44, antigen: €30-60

  • Germany - PCR: €50-80, antigen: Less than €50

  • Austria - PCR: €57-190, antigen: €25-50

  • Greece - PCR: €60, antigen: €20

  • Italy - PCR: €60-€80, antigen: €25-30

  • Portugal - PCR: €60-100, antigen: Around €20

  • Croatia - PCR: €65-113, antigen: €20-25

  • UK - PCR: £65-85 (€76-99), antigen: Free (one pack of seven per person per day) but antigen tests cannot be used for travel requirements

  • Netherlands - PCR: €80-119, antigen: Around €30

  • Spain - €98-120, antigen: €35-40

  • Switzerland - PCR: Around €130, antigen: Free (one test per person per week)

  • Malta - PCR: €120-140, antigen: €35

Of this list, France’s PCR tests are cheaper than all except in Belgium, and antigen tests are cheaper than all except some in Austria, Italy, Croatia, Switzerland and the UK.

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