Since the outbreak of a novel coronavirus in 2019, the ensuing global pandemic has impacted international travels, among a long list of other things. Economically, governments have taken a hit and now devising and improving solutions to assuage affected areas of national life. And even though France has consistently placed embargos on international movements, it is still important for serial and first-time travelers to research the possibility of traveling during the coronavirus.
COVID-19 Situation in France
The French government has confirmed over 5 million COVID-19 cases since January 24, 2020. Unfortunately, it reached a dingy milestone of going beyond 100,000 coronavirus-related deaths. After an abrupt fall in cases in the summer of 2020, infections began to rise in September and by late October, reported cases had exceeded 50,000 new infections on specific days. As admission rates continue to increase in intensive care units, Paris hospitals, like many hospitals across the country, are overwhelmed.
And as of the time of writing this post, daily cases are slowly falling while deaths continue to pass 300 per day on average. This is part of why the government imposed a strict new lockdown throughout the country, and it is expected to be relaxed in May. But the French President Macron announced a four-stage plan for re-opening France commencing in early May.
This is supposed to be a gradual easing of restrictions. While it will be determined by COVID-19 cases reaching “manageable” levels as well as vaccines’ effect in stifling further growth, France is expected to re-open museums, restaurants, attractions, music, sporting events, and visits from international travelers in the middle of June.
Who Can Visit France During the Lockdown?
The country closed its borders to travelers on March 2021 (except for essential workers, its citizens, and family members). Meanwhile, since March 21, 2021, travelers from the EU and Australia, Japan, Israel, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, and the UK are allowed to enter France.
The condition is that they submit a negative COVID-19 PCR result that is taken within 72 hours of departure and a declaration indicating that they have exhibited no COVID symptoms. Note that the mandatory test requirement does not apply to cross-border commuters. Travelers from other countries outside the European Union must have a “compelling” reason (health, family, or professional) for their visit.
France Travel Restrictions
Bear in mind that travelers entering France coming from other countries outside of the European Union for compelling reasons are required to spend 7 days in quarantine at a location of their choice. Recently, the government widened the list to include further family situations so couples and parents who are split between another country and France can travel to visit each other or/and their children. Recently passed as well, travelers from Brazil, Argentina, Chile, India, and South Africa will be required to undergo a 10-day quarantine to prevent the spread of new virus variants. For now, it is not clear how the government plans to handle travelers arriving by car or train.
Requirements for International Travelers Entering France
As at the time of writing this piece, the rest of the European Union and France are open to international travelers who hold passports from a few countries outside the EU. Therefore, visitors from the Holy See, Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Monaco, the UK, San Marino, South Korea, Japan, Israel, Singapore, New Zealand, and Switzerland are all currently granted access to France.
However, entry is not without restrictions as the travelers will be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test completed less than 72 hours before their expected arrivals. As earlier mentioned, other international travelers are currently barred from coming to France, except there is a compelling reason to travel. Except they meet specific criteria, they may be allowed inside the country only after showing a certificate of travel exemption together with proof of a negative COVID test.
They will be required to complete a form agreeing to be tested further during their stay in France and to remain in quarantine for 7 days after entry. The country is prepared to re-open its borders to fully vaccinated international travelers from June 9. They will be expected to show a “passe Sanitaire” (health pass), which might include proof of vaccination, negative COVID tests, and other documents.
When Can Overseas Travelers Visit Paris/France Again?
Oversea visitors from around 15 countries outside the European Union, including New Zealand and Australia, Japan, and South Korea, have in recent months been allowed to visit France with little or no embargoes. Travelers, including US citizens who have completed their vaccine doses, may be allowed to enter France and other countries in the EU starting this spring or early summer.
But restrictions have been stricter since late 2020 as the number of cases and death surged. Travelers from outside the European Union and other parts of the continent are strongly advised not to visit France as of the end of April 2021. Also, several overseas countries continue to warn their citizens against traveling abroad, including France for now.
The US government has placed France on Level 4 (very high level of COVID-19), thereby discouraging its citizens from visiting France. The UK government describes the health situation in France as severe as at the time of writing this post. Canada has also issued warnings to visit France, especially if the purpose of the visit is not deemed essential. As for Australia, it has issued strict overseas travel restrictions for its citizens for the foreseeable future.
Some nations of the world are now also requiring travelers who are returning from France to self-isolate or undergo a 14-day quarantine. The American government has already banned travelers from most of Europe except for US citizens, permanent residents, and some US citizens’ family members returning from France. However, they will have to undergo screening measures at airports and other entry points.
What is France doing to stop the spread of COVID?
The government has signaled a state of emergency to try to curb the current coronavirus wave of infections. Curfews have been imposed across France, and lockdowns have been put in place. Vaccine rollouts and mask regulations are in the queue. Last August, the Parisian local government made it compulsory to wear a mask outside the home in all public spaces, except when you are eating out in cafes/bars and restaurants.
In January 2021, France started rolling out vaccines to elderly patients. However, there have been reports of slow uptake and distribution when compared to other developed countries like Germany and the US. Notwithstanding, the government is making moves to amp its vaccination program after approving the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines plus the one produced by Pfizer/BioNTech. France has administered close to 15 million (total population of 60 million) first vaccine doses as of April 23, 2021.
What is Open in Paris Now and the Rest of France?
After a late October 2020 lockdown to early December, most of Paris was closed down, including shops and services, hair salons, boutiques, markets, and bookshops. They were reopened on December 1, 2020, but restaurants and bars remained closed.
More establishments would have opened on December 15, but the spread of the virus made the government delay the re-opening of cinemas, museums, and theatres until further notice. Meanwhile, the re-opening of restaurants, museums, bars, cafes, non-essential shops, and other indoor setups is expected to be in the spring of 2021. But factors like lockdown measures, vaccination rollout, more infectious COVID variants, and other contingencies would heavily determine re-openings.
Your decision to travel to France during the coronavirus pandemic would be strongly determined by your current location and family ties residing in France. If you are within the EU, travel is allowed but with stricter restrictions. As for overseas travelers, they will have to wait a while, given the current severe health situation in the country. However, ensure that you check current measures in your home country or next destination before traveling to France.