France reviews charging for Covid tests taken for travel and leisure

Health body proposes scrapping free tests for non-essential reasons to increase vaccine take-up

The French government is looking at ending reimbursement for Covid tests taken for personal convenience such as cross-border travel.

However, no decision is expected to be made before September.

"I think this is a question that will arise around the rentrée," government spokesman Gabriel Attal said when asked about the possibility of stopping reimbursements for certain PCR and antigenic Covid-19 tests by Franceinfo.

"I am not making an announcement here, but the question [of stopping reimbursement] may arise."

The question followed reports that the Académie nationale de médecine had recommended charging people who took the screening tests for what it described as ‘personal convenience’, as cases of the highly contagious Delta variant increase in France.

Under current rules, anyone who wants a test can do so without being charged.

Read more: France strengthens its Covid-19 defences for summer tourist season

The Académie recommended "suspending reimbursement for tests performed for personal convenience (such as obtaining a pass sanitaire, or for cross border travel) to "rapidly increase the national level of immunisation coverage during the summer".

"Among the factors that can deter individuals from vaccination, we must question the repeated use of RT-PCR or antigenic tests, which are offered free of charge in France unlike most European countries," it said in a press release.

Read more: Concern as Covid vaccination rate for first jabs drops in France

Health Minister Olivier Véran told Franceinfo that he would be open to the idea.

“It’s an option that’s being looked at,” he said. “Not right away, because currently we need everybody to be able to be tested, and it’s a credit to our country that there are no financial obstacles to getting tested.

“The question will arise around whether, when going to a nightclub or such and such place with a convenience test even though you’re not symptomatic or a contact case, is something which should be paid for from the public purse.

“I’m very open to discussions on this topic.”

But the decision would not be taken until all those who want to be vaccinated have been. "You have people who took their first dose a few weeks ago, if only because they were not allowed to do it before so they cannot be fully vaccinated today," Mr Attal said.

It would not be appropriate to make anyone pay for a test simply because they are waiting to be fully vaccinated, he said.

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