UK travel companies say they are lacking precise details of the test rules for people coming to France from non-EU countries, which will apply to all travellers, including those vaccinated, from Saturday, December 4.
The rules, announced yesterday and clarified further in a decree today, state that travellers must show a negative result from a Covid test carried out within 48 hours of departure for France. However they do not explain clearly how travellers can identify a test acceptable to France.
On its website, Eurostar states that: “The precise details including the type of test required are yet to be confirmed. As soon as we receive further clarification we will update our information.”
The Connexion also contacted EasyJet, Ryanair, British Airways, Air France, Brittany Ferries and DFDS to ask whether they had received any further detail.
A Brittany Ferries spokesperson said the company is still “waiting for confirmation” from the French government.
We contacted the UK Departments of Health and Social Care and Transport as well as the French Consulate in London and none could offer any more information on the type of tests which would be accepted. The consulate, however, said it expects to provide updates in due course via its website at this link.
One Connexion reader, who is due to travel from London to Paris with Eurostar on Saturday to visit a friend, has spoken of his frustration at the lack of clarity.
“When I booked my holiday, I was aware that I would need to be wary of changes that could be made on short notice, which is why I bought insurance cover.
“However, two days before I am meant to depart, fate has acted cruelly and I must try and decipher the new rules with regards to tests in order to be allowed to travel.
“The speed at which these new regulations have been put in place means that we have been left in the dark and I have no set information as to the steps I need to take to ensure I can go on holiday.
“In addition to this, it is too late to change my reservation as I have booked time off work and the travel companies are hiking up their prices in response to the panic.
“I am now left in the precarious position of not being able to enjoy my first holiday in two years because I may not have time to respond to the French government’s sudden changes.
“I understand why they need to act swiftly but clarity is needed just as swiftly for those who find themselves in the same position as me.”
Why is there uncertainty surrounding the new rules?
The French government published a decree this morning (December 2) stating that all travellers entering France from non-EU countries would need to do a test in the 48 hours before beginning their journey, and that this rule would come into effect on December 4.
It adds that: “The only antigen tests which can be taken are those which allow for the detection of the SARS-CoV-2 N protein.”
It offers no further details on how the latter kind of test can be identified and booked in the UK; nor does it explicitly state that all PCR tests are acceptable, although this would be a logical assumption since PCR tests have so far always been acceptable in France where a Covid test is required.
A number of UK providers offer 'lateral flow' antigen tests that are not only cheaper than their PCR counterparts – generally coming in £20-£35 as opposed to £45-£70 – but also offer results within half an hour. PCR tests, on the other hand, take at least 24, if not 48 hours or more to come back.
Being able to take a lateral flow test means that travellers can take their test on the day of travel, in some cases at the airport or station.
The Connexion contacted several private UK test providers to ask whether their tests would be suitable for the new requirements, but none was able to say for certain.
Neither the French nor the UK government websites have yet been updated with details about the new rules.
A spokeswoman for the British Embassy in Paris said: "We are waiting for some official information to be published following Mr Attal’s press conference. The last time [that tests were required for everyone arriving from the UK] the French Embassy in London published a list [of approved antigen tests] but I suspect that they are waiting for clarifications as well before they can get on with it.
"I know there will be lots of people eyeing up Christmas travel anxiously so we will share anything we get."
The previous technical requirements for antigen tests were different and did not refer to the SARS-CoV-2 N protein.