France ends free PCR, Rapid Antigen Covid tests for visiting tourists

·3-min read

Coronavirus detection tests will no longer be available for free to tourists visiting France, following a government decision which takes effect today.

Until now, tourists ending a vacation in France could have a PCR or Rapid Antigen test before boarding a flight to return to their home countries, without having to pay for them.

But from today, visitors will have to pay €49 for a PCR test or €29 for a Rapid Antigen test.

EU residents and those from Switzerland will however be eligible for refunds.

The move brings France into line with many other countries, who charge for such tests but it has raised fears that travellers will falisify certificates attesting to a negative covid test, in order to save money.

Travellers will be reminded that falsifying, selling or using fake documents is punishable by up to 3 years in prison and a fine of €45,000.

Doctors to access lists of non-vaccinated

Meanwhile the French Civil Liberties organization, the CNIL, has given its qualified approval to the limited sharing of information about whether or not people have been vaccinated against Covid-19.

The CNIL said it judged that because of the exceptional health emergency, social security authorities should be allowed to provide lists to family doctors requesting the information, detailing the names of patients who have not been vaccinated.

Health minister Olivier Véran had asked the CNIL for its opinion on the subject.

The civil liberties body recommends key conditions

A list must only be made available to a doctor who requests it, doctors must inform patients of the availability and advantages of a vaccination but not try to persuade them and patients names must be deleted from the list, once they have been informed.

This as France, having at least partially vaccinated more than half of the population, now struggles to convince the remainder of the benefits of a jab.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal warned on Wednesday that most regions of the country are now experiencing a rise in infection rates, although hospitalisation numbers remain fairly low.

With forty per cent of Covid infections in France identified as delta variants, Attal repeated a plea for people to take up the offer of a vaccination.

Public information adverts designed to incentivise the reluctant stress the advantages of vaccinations - including easier travel as more and more countries look set to ease the rules for fully vaccinated travellers.

Hopes for French travellers to USA

Meanwhile a decision from US authorities is expected in the next few weeks over the rules for visitors from France.

Tourism minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne told French radio station France Info that the situation was currently « asymetrical » because American tourists were now welcome in France but visiting the US remained difficult for the French.

Under the traffic light system used by many countries to assess the Covid risk posed by foreign travellers, the USA is classed as a relatively safe « green » country by France but France is on the American Amber list.

Lemoyne highlighted the difficulties faced by French citizens based in the USA who feared not being able to return to the US if they came back to France to see family.

All 27 EU member states agreed on May 19th to allow travellers from third countries to visit the bloc 2 weeks after their final vaccinations, provided the vaccines used were EU-approved.

The World Health Organization announced the « tragic milestone » of 4 million recorded Covid-19 deaths on Wednesday, adding that the true toll was likely higher.