French airport arrivals not always tested for Covid-19

Passengers arriving into French airports currently have the choice of taking a test to see if they have Covid-19 or not, but France’s defence council is discussing today (July 24) whether to make the tests mandatory.

24 July 2020
A girl on an airport escalator wearing a mask. French airport arrivals still not always tested for CovidCovid-19 testing in airports is currently optional
By Joanna York

Arrivals are offered a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, which involves using a cotton bud to take a nasal swab, and reveals whether a patient is currently infected with the virus. Those who take tests in airports are sent their results 24-48 hours later. If a test comes back positive, they are contacted by a doctor.

Optional testing has been in place since July 12 in airports in Paris (Ile-de-France). It is also in place in airports in Lyon (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes), Bordeaux (Nouvelle-Aquitaine), Toulouse (Occitanie) and Nice (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur).

However, there have been calls to make testing mandatory for all arrivals to help control the spread of Covid-19, including from the president of doctor’s union, La Fédération des Médecins en France, Dr Jean Paul Hamon. He told news source BMFTV: “Tests are easy to do, and fast.

“It is imperative that we don’t just let people pass through [without being tested].”

Read more: French senior doctors warn of lack of Covid airport measures

Still no mandatory tests for arrivals from 'at risk' countries

The government has previously said it would introduce mandatory testing in airports for arrivals from “at risk” countries, but this is yet to be implemented.

 “At risk” countries are defined as those outside the European Union and not on the list (released on July 10) of 22 countries authorised to enter Europe.

While the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are on the list, the United States is not. This means the US is currently considered “at risk” by French authorities.

Mandatory tests in airports would also be given to arrivals from French overseas territories French Guiana and Mayotte, the government said, where the Covid-19 virus is still actively circulating.

However, mandatory testing has not yet been introduced in any French airports.

On the Paris airports’ website (which provides information for Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle and Orly airports in Paris) travellers arriving from "at risk" zones are, instead, “strongly invited to show a negative PCR test, carried out less than 72hrs prior to departure”. They are also offered an optional test on arrival.

Test take-up low throughout French airports

Data from regional health agency l’Agence Régionale de Santé (l‘ARS), shows that only 655 tests were done at Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport from July 12 – 16. At Orly airport only 288 tests were done in the same period.  

Of those tested in Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport, 1% had the virus. In Orly airport 3.5% tested positive.

In Lyon-Saint-Exupéry airport, the ARS for Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes reports that 30-100 tests are being carried out each day. 

In Toulouse-Blagnac airport, testing has been in place since July 15. The ARS for Haute-Garonne reported that only seven tests have been carried out in the airport. 

In Bordeaux Mérignac airport, testing has been in place since yesterday (July 23) and will remain in the airport until at least August 15. Tests are being offered to arriving and departing passengers. 

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