France to test high-risk travellers for coronavirus

French Prime Minister Jean Castex (centre) visiting Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport on July 24, 2020 PHOTO: AFP

ROISSY-CHARLES DE GAULLE AIRPORT, FRANCE (AFP) - France will require on-the-spot coronavirus tests for people arriving from 16 countries where the pandemic is circulating widely, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Friday (July 24).

France does not allow general travel to and from these countries, which include the United States and Brazil.

The announcement came as the number of new cases in France began to climb again, to more than 1,000 a day in hospitals, according to the health ministry's DGS health directorate.

The tests will be for "French citizens who live in these countries or citizens of these countries with an established residence in France," Castex told reporters at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport.

Travellers testing positive will have to spend 14 days in isolation to prevent the spread of the virus.

Castex said some of the high-risk countries already require airline passengers to show a negative virus test before boarding.

It was not clear if those would be re-tested upon arrival in France.

He also did not specify if people would have to wait for their test results before being allowed to leave the airport.

The new premier's response to the pandemic is being closely watched after his predecessor, Edouard Philippe, was thought by many to have handled it fairly well.


The virus has begun to spread again after the relaxation of lockdown measures and as people take fewer precautions.

"We have returned to levels comparable with those at the end of the lockdown period," a DGS statement said.

"We have thus erased a good part of the progress made during the initial weeks" since the lockdown was lifted, it added.

French officials reported Friday that 30,192 people had died of Covid-19 to date, one of the highest numbers in Europe.

The "R" number that determines if the virus is spreading has risen to 1.3 meanwhile, indicating that it is.

France has thus decided to test travellers from countries where the virus is particularly virulent.

Along with the United States and Brazil, which are reporting tens of thousands of new cases each day, the countries include Algeria, Bahrain, Israel, India, South Africa, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Panama, Peru, Serbia, Turkey and Madagascar.

Morocco, which has reported rising cases in recent weeks, is not on the list for now but could be added later, an official in the prime minister's office said.

Coronavirus tests will be rolled out across France by August 1, and will also be carried out at French ports, Castex said.

He also said that while France's border with Spain would remain open for now despite a surge in cases in Catalonia, "we strongly urge French people to avoid going there until the health situation improves."

As for people travelling to France from Spain, "we are in talks with the Spanish and Catalan authorities so that... they try to limit the flow as much as possible," he said.

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