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French quarantine rules to spare travellers from Schengen area and Britain

The Eurostar terminal at Gare du Nord train station in Paris.
The Eurostar terminal at Gare du Nord train station in Paris. © AFP file photo

France said Sunday that it would not quarantine travellers arriving from the EU, the Schengen area or Britain due to the coronavirus pandemic, contradicting an earlier announcement that the quarantine would apply to all travellers.

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France is preparing to ease lockdown measures from May 11, though the government has decided to extend a “state of health emergency” until July 24 to combat the spread of Covid-19

Announcing the extension on Saturday, the government had said that anyone entering France would have to remain in isolation for two weeks, French nationals included.

However, the quarantine rules will not apply to "anyone arriving from the European Union, the Schengen zone or Britain, regardless of their nationality", the presidency said on Sunday.

For French and EU citizens arriving in France from other regions outside the EU, the Schengen area and Britain, "the rules will be announced in the coming days", the presidency added. 

The French consulate in Britain had made a similar announcement earlier in the day.

"People entering the French territory from countries in the European area (EU/Schengen and United Kingdom) will NOT be affected by the quarantine measure announced in France, the details of which will be specified shortly," the consulate said on Twitter.

The number of new deaths from COVID-19 in France has been declining in recent days, with 135 fatalities reported over the past 24 hours on Sunday — the lowest daily tally since March 22. 

The national health service said the increase brought France's total death toll to 24,895, the world's fifth highest figure after the United States, Italy, Britain and Spain.

France plans to start lifting the coronavirus lockdown from May 11, when children are to return to school in stages, some businesses will reopen and people will be able to travel within 100 kilometres (60 miles) of their homes without a signed justification for their movement.

But Health Minister Olivier Veran warned Sunday that this would depend on further declines in COVID-19 infections, especially in hard-hit areas like the Paris region and northeast France.

The government has said the number of new coronavirus cases must stabilise at fewer than 3,000 per day as it expands testing, otherwise doctors and nurses could face another wave of patients that have tested hospitals since March.

"If the number of new cases proves too high, we'll have to reconsider the date for lifting the lockdown, and decide according to the situation in each department," Veran told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

He also cautioned against planning summer holidays for now, saying "it's unlikely that this virus is going to go on vacation".

Officials are scrambling to ramp up testing capacities to 700,000 people each week by May 11, which health experts say is essential for containing the outbreak.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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