On the ground

France's airports mandate Covid-19 testing on arrival from 16 countries

Health workers in full protective gears wait for passengers to get tested for Covid-19 infection at Paris' Charles-de-Gaulles airport on August 04, 2020
Health workers in full protective gears wait for passengers to get tested for Covid-19 infection at Paris' Charles-de-Gaulles airport on August 04, 2020 Mehdi Chebil

French airports have begun compulsory testing on arrival for passengers from 16 countries where the coronavirus is circulating widely. The rules came into effect on August 1 as the number of new Covid-19 cases registered daily in France continues to rise.

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"I'm sorry but your Covid test is no longer valid. Please queue on this side to get tested." That's how Rob, a traveller from northern California, was greeted by a French customs guard as he landed at Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport on August 4 after an 11-hour flight from San Francisco.

"It was a bit disorganised and there was some confusion as to whether the test had to be done 72 hours before boarding or landing," the frequent traveller to Europe told FRANCE 24. "A second customs guard checked my test again and eventually allowed me through without further testing."

Rob and all other passengers of the AF87 flight from San Francisco had to produce a recent negative Covid-19 test or face a compulsory nasal test on arrival. French authorities implemented this policy of on-arrival Covid-19 tests starting August 1 after establishing a list of 16 high-risk countries. The list includes the United States, Brazil, Algeria, Turkey, India, Israel, South Africa, Kuweit, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Panama, Madagascar, Peru, Qatar, Oman and Serbia.

Rob, a traveller from Northern California, shows the green dot sticker on his passport - a sign that he showed a recent negative covid test result to custom guards at Paris' Charles-de-Gaulle airport on August 04, 2020
Rob, a traveller from Northern California, shows the green dot sticker on his passport - a sign that he showed a recent negative covid test result to custom guards at Paris' Charles-de-Gaulle airport on August 04, 2020 Mehdi Chebil

"It's good to know that most of the people who were on the aircraft had actually tested negative before boarding," Josselin Lefrançois, a Frenchman living in San Francisco, told FRANCE 24.

Like Rob, he took his Covid-19 test in the US a few days before his flight. "It's still important to have compulsory testing free of charge on arrival, too. Some US labs take too long, about six days, to deliver the results. And it can be expensive, too," added the tech entrepreneur, who paid $250 for his test before departing the United States.

There are currently three Covid-19 testing centres at Paris's CDG airport. Two are located near the arrivals gate at Terminals 2E and 2A. The third one – where compulsory on-arrival tests are conducted – is located in the customs zone at Terminal 2E near the baggage reclaim.

Amadou Sylla undergoes a nasal covid test at Paris' Charles-de-Gaulle airport on August 04, 2020
Amadou Sylla undergoes a nasal covid test at Paris' Charles-de-Gaulle airport on August 04, 2020 Mehdi Chebil

No quarantine on arrival

After registering with an ID and an email address, people get tested in small cubicles behind the counter. Medical personnel in full protective gear insert a swab into the nasal passage to gather a sample that is then sent to a lab, which delivers the results in 24 to 48 hours.

Each airport testing centre conducts hundreds of Covid-19 tests per day. The ones located near the arrivals hall actually get a large number of outbound travellers – people who will travel from Paris to another destination where Covid-19 tests are also compulsory.

"I will fly to Conakry (the capital of Guinea in West Africa) on August 7. Guinean authorities require that we have a negative Covid test result before entering the country. I brought my boy to the airport today and it was a good opportunity to get this done," Amadou Sylla told FRANCE 24 after his nasal test.

A traveller prepares to undergo a covid test at Paris' Charles-de-Gaulle airport on August 04, 2020
A traveller prepares to undergo a covid test at Paris' Charles-de-Gaulle airport on August 04, 2020 Mehdi Chebil

The airport testing system still requires goodwill from passengers to work efficiently. Passengers from high-risk countries face no quarantine as they wait for the results of the Covid-19 test they took on arrival.

"They show their ID and are asked to fill a form with their contact details," explained Alyzee Feauveaux, from the Agence Regionale de Santé, the agency in charge of the testing centres. "In case their test comes back positive, we immediately reach out to ask them to isolate themselves and trace the other people they may have been in contact with."

French authorities chose not to implement a mandatory quarantine on arrival such as those in Hong Kong or South Korea, where authorities check to ensure that inbound passengers remain isolated for 14 days.

A health worker shows a sample collected during a nasal covid test. The sample will be sent to a lab, which will deliver the test result in 24 to 48 hours. Photo taken at Paris' Charles-de-Gaulle airport on August 04, 2020
A health worker shows a sample collected during a nasal covid test. The sample will be sent to a lab, which will deliver the test result in 24 to 48 hours. Photo taken at Paris' Charles-de-Gaulle airport on August 04, 2020 Mehdi Chebil

 

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