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US puts France on highest Covid alert level and advises against travel

Due to the current situation in France, even fully vaccinated travellers could be at risk of contracting and spreading Covid-19 variants, said the American health protection agency

The new rules are not a ban on travel to France but may impact insurance coverage Pic: Song_about_summer / Shutterstock

Authorities in the US have given France the highest alert rating for travel and Covid risk and now advise against all travel to France from the US due to rising Covid cases.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) national health protection agency placed France on its ‘Level 4: Very High’ list for Covid risk to travellers yesterday (August 9), telling people to 'avoid travel to France'.

Following the CDC’s level change, official travel advice from the US federal government also changed from Level 3 to the top Level 4 and now states: “Do not travel to France due to Covid-19”. The State Department (equivalent to a foreign affairs ministry) says this level relates to "greater likelihood of life-threatening risks".

Those who 'must' travel to France are asked by the CDC to make sure they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 before travel. 

Even so, the CDC said: “Due to the current situation in France, even fully vaccinated travellers could be at risk of contracting and spreading Covid-19 variants.”

France was previously classed as a Level 3 travel risk by both authorities, with the State Department advising people in the US to ‘reconsider’ travel to the country. At Level 3, the CDC says unvaccinated travellers should avoid all non-essential travel, though vaccinated travellers are not subject to this.

Other European countries with a Level 4 rating from the State Department include the UK, Spain, Portugal, Iceland, Greece, Malta and the Netherlands; the CDC's Level 4 Covid risk rating also applies to these as well as Ireland.

The US is currently listed as ‘green’ by France, its safest travel rating. 

New rating may impact travel insurance

The new rules are not a legal ban on travel to France from the US, but they may impact insurance coverage for those who do choose to travel.

Outside of the health crisis, Level 4 travel risk ratings from the State Department are usually reserved for war zones or countries experiencing natural or humanitarian disasters.

Insurance providers tend to base coverage on official guidelines for travel, and non-essential travel to a Level 4 country may be considered high risk behaviour and invalidate coverage.

This could mean that some or all of your medical coverage is no longer valid during your trip, even if you pass through France on the way to another country.

Exceptions may be made for travellers who arrived in France before the Level 4 rating came into effect, but US travellers currently in France or with a trip planned should contact their travel insurance providers for more information.

People who do travel to France from the US should also check the latest rules for testing and quarantine for outward and return journeys.

Currently, there are no quarantine measures for travellers from the US arriving in France. 

All travellers returning to the US from France must provide a negative test result taken within three days or proof that they have recovered from Covid-19 within the previous three months.

They must also take a viral test three to five days after returning to the US.

Fully vaccinated travellers returning to the US from France do not need to quarantine upon arrival. Unvaccinated returning travellers must quarantine in a self-selected location for a minimum of seven days.

Martinique advises tourists to leave

This comes as the French overseas territory of Martinique yesterday advised tourists to leave the island as new confinement measures are being enforced.

Non-essential shops, cultural and leisure spaces and most hotels will close, beaches will no longer be accessible to the public.

Martinique currently has one of the highest incidence rates in France (the number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the past seven days) at 1,200.

This is more than five times the national incidence rate – currently 233. The alert threshold for the incidence rate begins at 50.

Tourist numbers in mainland France are still low, compared to before the health crisis. 

Tourism agence Atout France forecast that 50million foreign tourists would visit France in summer 2021 – 22% more than in 2020, but far from the 90million who visited in 2019. 

The vast majority of these were expected to be European visitors, with few tourists from the US, Russia, Asia or the Middle East.

Related stories 

Covid-19: Rules for travel to and from France

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