France’s new Covid test rules for all non-EU arrivals

France has announced strict new rules for all travellers – vaccinated or not – arriving in France from non-EU countries in the face of the new variant of Covid-19 known as Omicron.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal, speaking after the weekly meeting of the government’s Defence Council on Wednesday, announced the implementation of new rules aimed at controlling the spread of the newly-detected Omicron variant.

A government Decree published on Thursday provides more detail.

The new rules come into force at 00.01am on Saturday, December 4th and the testing requirements apply to everyone aged 12 or older – including those who have French citizenship or permanent residency in France.

Non-EU

All travellers – vaccinated or not – will require a negative Covid test in order to enter France from any country outside the EU or Schengen zone. This would include travellers from the UK, the USA and Canada.

The test must have been taken within 48 hours of departure. The decree states that only tests “that are able to detect protein N of Sars-Cov2” can be used – this covers all PCR tests but not all antigen tests. Home tests have never been accepted for travel purposes.

For testing rules around the UK’s Lateral Flow Tests, click here. 

All non-EU arrivals must also give a declaration on their honour that they accept that furthering testing can be performed on arrival in France, although it is not clear how systematic this will be.

Bear in mind that many non-EU countries – including the UK and USA – are on France’s orange list, which means that unvaccinated people can only travel for essential reasons.

EU/Schengen

Arrivals from an EU county or Switzerland, Andorra, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Monaca, Norway or San Marino only need to take a test if they are not vaccinated. Unvaccinated arrivals will need a negative test, taken within the previous 24 hours.

Scarlet List

Attal also announced that from Saturday, flights would resume from the seven African countries currently the subject of a flight ban – but with extremely strict new conditions.

A new category has been created in the government’s traffic light system – scarlet – which will cover the seven countries currently covered by the flight ban – South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini – plus Malawi, Zambia and Maritius.

Travellers from these countries will only be allowed to enter France if they have French or EU citizenship or permanent residency, or are diplomats or flight crew. All travel for work, tourism, family visits, study or research from these countries is suspended.

Arrivals from those countries will be obliged to take a pre-departure test and be tested on arrival. Those who test negative will still have to quarantine for seven days on arrival. This quarantine can be done at home, but will be enforced with visits from the police. Those who test positive must quarantine for 10 days in a quarantine hotel.

Fines of between €1,000 and €1,500 will be levied for non-compliance with quarantine.

The new restrictions come in the face of the new variant of Covid, known as Omicrom, first sequenced in South Africa.

France has confirmed cases of the variant in its overseas territories of La Réunion and Mayotte, but there are also 13 suspected cases within France. 

“Let’s not be fooled or naive, there will very probably be cases in mainland France in the coming hours or days,” he said.