French expats in US say Covid-19 testing policy violates their right to return

Dr. Akshay Ganju, an emergency physician, at Sollis Health in New York City, tests a patient for Covid-19, on August 26, 2020.
Dr. Akshay Ganju, an emergency physician, at Sollis Health in New York City, tests a patient for Covid-19, on August 26, 2020. © Jessica Le Masurier

French citizens living in the United States are furious about Covid-19 testing requirements that France has imposed on travelers, complicating their return home.

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France issued an order in late July requiring travelers coming from four countries, the United States, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Panama, to show a negative Covid-19 test result at the airport before boarding their plane. The test must be taken less than 72 hours before the flight.

Five French citizens, including a New York-based lawyer, Pierre Ciric, filed a lawsuit against the French government in mid-August, saying the policy violated their constitutional "right to return", as it is difficult to receive test results in such a short time in the US. 

A French court agreed that restricting a citizen's ability to return to his or her home country was a constitutional violation, but the policy was not reversed.

Instead, the court gave permission for travelers to seek a medical exemption from the French consulate instead of providing a negative Covid-19 test result, though such exemptions are not easy to obtain. 

Olivier Guibert, a French retiree living in Arizona, said, "I'm trying to go and see my mother, whom I haven't seen in a year, and unfortunately the French government is stopping me from going to my country."

"I feel discriminated against because we are on the list of the pesky countries that have to present a Covid test 72 hours before boarding. I just don't get it," he added.

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