France begins limiting travel outside the EU to curb the spread of Covid-19

·4-min read

French border police turned away some passengers bound for destinations outside the EU on Monday after new rules banning flights to and from countries outside the bloc came into force at midnight. France has limited the reasons for travel outside the EU to urgent personal or family business, a health emergency or work-related voyages.

Prime Minister Jean Castex announced the new measures on Friday as part of new efforts to contain Covid-19 infections and avoid another nationwide lockdown.

By curbing international travel, the government hopes to get a better grip on the circulation of the coronavirus and its new, more contagious variants.

Valid personal reasons include:

  • The death or imminent death of a parent, grandparent or sibling. A doctor’s note or death certificate will be required.

  • A child visiting a parent who has shared custody or visitation rights. A court letter and proof of address will be required.

  • Assistance for someone old, ill or handicapped. A document establishing the relationship to the two people and the situation of the person needing help will be required.

  • A judicial summons. The traveller will need to show the summons.

  • A legal or economic reason that you cannot remain in the country, such as an expired visa.

  • Safety issues. Acceptable documents include protection orders.

  • Students beginning or ending a period of study abroad. They will be required to show documentation from the educational institution.

  • Travellers may return to their primary residence if their trip began before January 31, 2021. They will be required to show proof of residency, plus their outbound ticket.

Valid health reasons include:

  • Medical emergencies. A doctor’s letter or proof of hospital appointment will be required. Someone may accompany the patient.

Valid work-related reasons include:

  • Business activities that cannot be postponed or carried out remotely without disproportionate consequences. The traveller must have a letter from their employer.

  • Health professionals fighting Covid-19. They must show a professional ID.

  • Diplomatic missions and state work trips. Travellers must have professional ID and/or a letter from their ministry.

  • High-level professional sporting events. Participants must have professional ID and documentation from the sports ministry.

Travellers also must present proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken no more than 72 hours before travel as well as a signed form asserting they have not been in contact with anyone diagnosed with Covid-19 during the previous 14 days. Those conditions must be also met upon return to France.

In addition, those returning to France must agree to be tested upon arrival if asked and must respect a voluntary quarantine of seven days, at the end of which they have to be tested again.

Passengers must first show the required documentation at airline counters during check-in and then again at border control, where agents were no longer allowing automated passport scanning but instead checking each document as passenger queues grew longer.

The time needed per passenger can easily reach five or 10 minutes, compared with just seconds usually, as agents try to determine whether someone has met the requirements for having an urgent motive to travel.

>> A full list of acceptable motives and required documents can be found on the French government website by clicking here.

Border police require written proof before allowing passengers to board – as Toure, a Malian national, found out when he tried to leave France for Bamako without the necessary documents.

"I said that my mother, whom I hadn't seen in a while, was ill but they told me I needed proof," Toure, who withheld his last name, told AFP at Paris's main airport, Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle. After being turned away, Toure – who works for a French public works foundation – managed to reach his mother's doctor in Bamako, who sent him a barely legible note by WhatsApp. He tried again and this time was waved through.

"The idea is to limit the outbound-inbound loops between France and abroad," Julien Gentile, head of the border police for the Roissy and Le Bourget airports, told AFP.

President Emmanuel Macron has decided, for now, not to impose a third national lockdown, choosing a different path than France's neighbours such as Britain and Germany.

Health Minister Olivier Véran said Sunday that the number of new coronavirus cases had barely increased over the past week, while other indicators – such as traces of the virus detected in waste water – were also reassuring.

The French government put in place a strict nighttime curfew after a second lockdown ended in December.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)