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France to require 24-hour test for UK and some EU countries over delta variant fears

France has announced stricter restrictions on unvaccinated travellers from several countries that have reported high numbers of Covid cases linked to the delta variant of the virus - the UK, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, the Netherlands and Greece.

France to require 24-hour test for UK and some EU countries over delta variant fears
Photo: Ian Langsdon/AFP

In a live TV appearance on Monday, French president Emmanuel Macron announced a package of measures aimed at controlling a delta-driven fourth wave of Covid in France.

On the subject of travel restrictions he said: “From this week, controls at our borders will be strengthened for those coming from high-risk countries, with strict isolation for unvaccinated travellers” – but offered no further details.

However, some clarification was later published by France’s Europe minister Clément Beaune on Twitter.

It appears that France is keeping in place its traffic light system, but imposing extra restrictions on three countries.

READ ALSO How France’s traffic light travel system works

He announced a “reinforced regime” for travellers from the UK who are not fully vaccinated – a negative Covid test taken within 24 hours of travel, in addition to having compelling reasons for travel. This is a change from the existing regime which requires a test taken within 72 hours of travel.

Either PCR or antigen tests are accepted, but not home-test kits.

Existing traffic light restrictions remain in place.

This means the new rules from the UK are;

Fully vaccinated travellers – can travel to France for any reason, do not have to quarantine on arrival but do need a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of travel. Travellers from the UK who had AstraZeneca’s Covishield vaccine do not count as ‘fully vaccinated’ under French rules.

Unvaccinated travellers – can only travel to France for essential reasons (which includes French citizens and residents returning home), must quarantine for seven days on arrival and need a negative Covid test taken within 24 hours of travel. Find the full list of accepted reasons for travel HERE.

READ ALSO Can families with unvaccinated children travel to France?

Spain, Portugal and the rest of the EU and Schengen zone are on France’s green list, but testing has also been tightened up for non-vaccinated travellers who now require a negative test taken within 24 hours of travel, not 72 hours as previously.

On Saturday, the government also tightened entry requiremenets for Cyprus, the Netherlands and Greece.

This means the new rules for Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, the Netherlands and Greece are;

Fully vaccinated travellers – can travel for any reason, do not need to quarantine or present a negative Covid test.

Unvaccinated travellers – can travel for any reason and do not need to quarantine, but must show a negative Covid test taken within 24 hours of travel.

Tests are required for all travellers aged over 11.

All entrants to France need to present a declaration that they are in good health – you can find the declaration HERE.

In travel terms, fully vaccinated is defined as someone who has received a vaccine approved by the EMA – Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca (but not Covishield) or Johnson & Johnson – and is two weeks after their second dose, or four weeks after the injection if they received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson injection (which is known in France as Janssen).

These rules are in place from Saturday, July 17th.

Member comments

  1. Are they checking the batches of the NHS app vaccinated people? I have one Covishield, under Vaxzveria name but the batch is one of these infamous ones. And the 24 hours test then is for antigen tests only, as the PCR test would never come that soon.

  2. Like Martina I need to know if the test within 24 hours is a PCR one or if an Antigen Test is acceptable; I had ordered, paid for and have, just this morning, received an Antigen test. Thanks

    1. Both are acceptable from July 15th as it says if they are within 24hrs. I travel on Sunday via tunnel to France. Luckily we are testing at 2:30pm on Saturday and travelling at 9:30
      On Sunday. Just by luck

      1. And July 17th sorry as that’s when they say things are getting stricter.

        My wife has the Astra Zeneca one which was from the batch made in India but is not called Covishield it’s called Vacivera

        1. VAXZEVRIA sorry

          Who knows. The batch number is one we saw listed as not recognised by EMA but now they are saying this named vaccination???

          We will just fry our best on Sunday morning

      2. Thanks for that info, we are going on Sunday 1st August at 21.00 so we will have to be smart about our testing! Good luck to you and your wife….have a good trip!

  3. Has there been any change to British residents in France returning to the uk, i.e. do we have to isolate for 2 weeks when entering the uk.
    What is the situation on our return to France, we are fully vaccinated in French Pfizer vaccine

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REVEALED: Countries fear non-EU travellers face delays under new EES border checks

A number of countries in Europe's Schengen area admit they fear delays and insufficient time to test the process ahead of new, more rigorous EU border checks that will be introduced next year, a new document reveals.

REVEALED: Countries fear non-EU travellers face delays under new EES border checks

Schengen countries are tightening up security at the external borders with the introduction of a new digital system (EES) to record the entry and exit of non-EU citizens in May 2023.

The EES will enable the automatic scanning of passports replacing manual stamping by border guards. It will register the person’s name, type of the travel document, biometric data (fingerprints and facial images) and the date and place of entry and exit. The data will be kept in a centralised database on a rolling three-year basis that is re-set at each entry. 

What the EES is intended to do is increase border security, including the enforcement of the 90-day short-stay limit for tourists and visitors.

EU citizens and third-country nationals who reside in a country of the Schengen area will not be subject to such checks as long as they can prove residency in an EU country however they will still be caught up in any delays at passport control if the new system as many fear, causes longer processing times.

READ ALSO: Foreigners living in EU not covered by new EES border checks

But given its scale, the entry into operation of the system has been raising concerns on many fronts, including the readiness of the physical and digital infrastructure, and the time required for border checks, which could subsequently cause massive queues at borders.

A document on the state of preparations was distributed last week by the secretariat of the EU Council (the EU institution representing member states) and published by Statewatch, a non-profit organisation that monitors civil liberties.

The paper contains the responses from 21 countries to a questionnaire about potential impacts on passenger flows, the infrastructure put in place and the possibility of a gradual introduction of the new system over a number of months.

This is what certain the countries have responded. Responses from Denmark, Spain and Sweden do not appear in the report but the answers from other countries will be relevant for readers in those countries.

READ ALSO: What the EU’s new EES border check system means for travel

‘Double processing time’

Austria and Germany are the most vocal in warning that passport processing times will increase when the EES will become operational.

“The additional tasks resulting from the EES regulation will lead to a sharp increase in process times”, which are expected to “double compared to the current situation,” Austrian authorities say. “This will also affect the waiting times at border crossing points (in Austria, the six international airports),” the document continues.

“Furthermore, border control will become more complicated since in addition to the distinction between visa-exempt and visa-required persons, we will also have to differentiate between EES-required and EES-exempt TCN [third country nationals], as well as between registered and unregistered TCN in EES,” Austrian officials note.

Based on an analysis of passenger traffic carried out with the aviation industry, German authorities estimate that checking times will “increase significantly”.

France expects to be ready for the introduction of the EES “in terms of passenger routes, training and national systems,” but admits that “fluidity remains a concern” and “discussions are continuing… to make progress on this point”.

Italy is also “adapting the border operational processes… in order to contain the increased process time and ensure both safety and security”.

“Despite many arguments for the introduction of automated border control systems based on the need for efficiency, the document makes clear that the EES will substantially increase border crossing times,” Statewatch argues.

‘Stable service unlikely by May 2023’

The border infrastructure is also being adapted for collecting and recording the data, with several countries planning for automated checks. So what will change in practice?

France will set up self-service kiosks in airports, where third-country nationals can pre-register their biometric data and personal information before being directed to the booth for verification with the border guard. The same approach will be adopted for visitors arriving by bus, while tablet devices such as iPads will be used for the registration of car passengers at land and sea borders.

Germany also plans to install self-service kiosks at the airports to “pre-capture” biometric data before border checks. But given the little time for testing the full process, German authorities say “a stable working EES system seems to be unlikely in May 2023.”

Austria intends to install self-service kiosks at the airports of Vienna and Salzburg “in the course of 2023”. Later these will be linked to existing e-gates enabling a “fully automated border crossing”. Austrian authorities also explain that airport operators are seeking to provide more space for kiosks and queues, but works will not be completed before the system is operational.

Italy is increasing the “equipment of automated gates in all the main  airport” and plans to install, at least in the first EES phase, about 600 self-service kiosks at the airports of Rome Fiumicino, Milan Malpensa, Venice and in those with “significant volumes of extra-Schengen traffic,” such as Bergamo, Naples, Bologna and Turin.

Switzerland, which is not an EU member but is part of the Schengen area, is also installing self-service kiosks to facilitate the collection of data. Norway, instead, will have “automated camera solutions operated by the border guards”, but will consider self-service options only after the EES is in operation.

Gradual introduction?

One of the possibilities still in consideration is the gradual introduction of the new system. The European Commission has proposed a ‘progressive approach’ that would allow the creation of “incomplete” passenger files for 9 months following the EES entry into operation, and continuing passport stamping for 3 months.

According to the responses, Italy is the only country favourable to this option. For Austria and France this “could result in more confusion for border guards and travellers”. French officials also argue that a lack of biometric data will “present a risk for the security of the Schengen area”.

France suggested to mitigate with “flexibility” the EES impacts in the first months of its entry into service. In particular, France calls for the possibility to not create EES files for third-country nationals who entered the Schengen area before the system becomes operational, leaving this task to when they return later.

This would “significantly ease the pressure” on border guards “during the first three months after entry into service,” French authorities said.

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