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France now requires Covid tests for at-risk airport arrivals

As of yesterday (August 1), proof of a negative Covid-19 test is mandatory for all arrivals to French airports from 16 “at risk” countries, with 556 people tested in Paris yesterday. We explain how the new system works.

The new rules were announced by Prime Minister Jean Castex a week ago, and came into force on Saturday August 1.

Any passengers arriving into France via airports from an “at-risk”, “red” country, must either show proof of a negative Covid-19 test within the past 72 hours, or must take one - free of charge - upon arrival.

Which countries are considered 'at-risk' and 'red'?

This applies to 16 countries, to whom France’s borders are technically closed in a bid to limit the spread of the virus. These are countries in which Covid-19 is still deemed to be at too-high levels, and circulating rapidly.

Only people “who are French citizens, or citizens of these countries who have a stable residence in France” are therefore permitted to travel into France from these nations. This still applies to 10,000-15,000 people per day, Mr Castex said.

The 16 countries are split into two groups.

The first group is of countries who require passengers to show a negative Covid-19 test within the past 72 hours before they even board the plane. Because of this, arrivals from these countries are not obliged to have a Covid-19 test when they arrive on French soil.

They are: The US, Bahrain, the UAE, and Panama.

The second group of countries do not require a test upon departure. Passengers aged 11 and over arriving in France from these countries must therefore take a mandatory test upon arrival.

They are: Algeria, South Africa, Brazil, India, Israel, Kuwait, Madagascar, Oman, Peru, Qatar, Serbia, and Turkey.

How does this work upon arrival?

All airports receiving passengers from these destinations must have mandatory testing in place, but the actual system may vary by airport.

At Roissy Charles de Gaulle, passengers are being grouped into two terminals - 2A and 2E - and the tests are undertaken at the same time as passports are checked.

Figures from the interior ministry show that a total of 556 passengers - of 2.671 total arrivals - were tested at Roissy and Orly in Paris on August 1.

In Nice, however, the tests are done even before passengers enter the airport. Nice airport spokesperson Hélène Navarro told FranceInfo: “These passengers are directed by bus to a room that we have specially set up airside.”

Passengers that cannot show proof of a negative test within 72 hours must take a PCR test on-site. They must also leave an address in France, and a contact telephone number. They are also requested to limit their contacts until they receive their results. Most results are issued within 36 hours.

Passengers with a final destination of France, arriving from one of the 16 countries via layover in another Schengen Area country, are required to have the test as soon as they enter the Schengen Area.

This means that - for example - someone arriving in France from Brazil via Lisbon would need to be tested in Portugal, and will not receive a second test upon arrival in France.

Depending on the airport, there may be law enforcement on-site to ensure that passengers comply. At Roissy and Orly, there were 80 border police, five criminal research gendarmerie technicians, 50 personnel from hospital group AP-HP and the ARS Ile de France, and nine firefighters on hand in case of emergency.

However, the ministry of the interior said that across the whole of France, only three people refused to be tested yesterday - all at Lyon Saint-Exupéry.

What happens if the test is positive?

The passenger will be informed, and required to self-isolate for a period of 48 hours to 10 days, depending on their symptoms.

Regional health agencies les Agences Régionales de Santé (ARS) will be responsible for contacting and caring for each ondividual, and also compiling a list of the people that they have been in contact with - and may therefore have infected - since their arrival in France.

Augustin de Romanet, president-director general of Aéroports de Paris, told FranceInfo: “If they are positive, the ARS calls them and monitors their quarantine.”

He added that “if people really try to avoid the test, the prefect can then issue an individual ‘deprivation of liberty’ order”, which will assign the person to “a specific address [where] they will be checked by health authorities” to ensure that they remain at home.

Related stories

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