News Digest: Additional Covid Tests for UK-France Travel & France’s Scarlet List



News Digest: Additional Covid Tests for UK-France Travel & France’s Scarlet List

Another week, another change to the rules for travel between France and the UK! We breakdown the changes on both sides of the Channel, plus France places 10 countries on its new ‘scarlet’ list, and what did yesterday’s speech reveal about France’s health restrictions over the festive period? Here are the French news stories you need to know about this week.

1. Covid-19 Update in France

Prime Minister Jean Castex and Health Minister Olivier Véran held a joint press conference last night after a government meeting to discuss the health situation. A further lockdown or curfew is not on the cards for France, they confirmed, and restaurants, bars, and Christmas markets will stay open over the holiday period.

However, tighter restrictions are being encouraged at public and private events and gatherings, especially regarding mask-wearing and the serving of food (which should only be served in areas where the Pass Sanitaire is required). The Prime Minister also announced that nightclubs will close down for four weeks from Friday (December 10th), and télétravail (working from home) is once again being encouraged for all companies that have the means to do so.

Regarding vaccinations, Castex also announced that Covid vaccines will be available for high-risk children between 5 and 11 years old (for example, those who are overweight or have an underlying health condition) from December 15th – a decision on whether or not to open vaccinations to all other children is expected to be made by the end of the month.

Booster vaccines continue to be available for all, although appointments are booking up fast in some areas – see our guide to getting a Covid booster in France for how to book yours. To ensure that the most vulnerable get priority, Castex also announced that over 65s can now walk-in to any test centre to get their booster shot, without needing an appointment. This option is also available for the unvaccinated to receive their first vaccination.

2. Tests for All Non-EU Travellers to France

As of Saturday, December 4th, all arrivals in France from outside the EU (including French residents and French citizens returning from their travels) will require a negative Covid test to enter France. This rule extends to all arrivals, including both vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers.

The test must be a PCR test or rapid-result antigen or lateral flow test that is ‘capable of detecting the N protein in Covid’ – which rules out all home test kits and certain rapid-result tests, so it’s a good idea to double-check before booking your test.

For vaccinated travellers, the test must be taken within 48 hours of departure. For unvaccinated travellers (who must also have an essential reason to travel to France), the test must be taken within 24 hours. All travellers over 12 are required to take the test.

An additional note for those taking a test in the UK, you will need to pre-book a specific ‘travel test’ for these purposes – these tests will provide you with a ‘fit to fly certificate’ or similar, with a scannable QR code that can be presented at the border. An NHS-issued Covid test will not suffice.

3. France Brings in Scarlet List

After a temporary flight ban from all countries where the Omicron variant is widely circulating, France has now resumed flights with some of the strictest entry conditions seen to date. As of December 4th, the 10 countries where the Omicron variant is widely circulating – South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini, Malawi, Zambia and Mauritius – have been placed on a new Scarlet list.

Only French citizens, EU citizens, diplomats, and permanent French residents will be allowed to travel to France from Scarlet countries – there is a complete ban on all travel for work, tourism, family visits, or any of the other ‘essential reasons’ that apply to other countries.

If you can travel, you must take pre-departure and on-arrival Covid tests, and must quarantine at home (with police checks) for a minimum of seven days even if your test results are negative. If you test positive, the quarantine period is ten days and must be undertaken at a quarantine hotel. Hefty fines apply to those who don’t comply.

See the rules for travelling to France under the traffic light system here.

4. Additional Test Requirements for UK Travel

We announced in last week’s News Digest that vaccinated travellers to the UK would now once again need to take a Covid test on or before day 2 of their arrival in France. Now, as of this morning, all vaccinated travellers must also take a pre-departure test before leaving France (find out how to get a Covid 19 test in France). This must be taken within 48 hours of departure and is in addition to the day 2 test, which must be pre-booked before you travel. See the full rules for travel between France and the UK here.

Covid-related rules aside, if you are confused about all the new rules that have come into place for travel between the UK and France since Brexit, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to all of the changes. We’ve even included a handy checklist for all the documents you now need to travel (unfortunately, there are quite a few!). Here’s Everything You Need for Post-Brexit Travel Between France and UK: Customs, Border Controls & Document Checklist. (Thanks to John Bibby for requesting we put together this article).

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FrenchEntrée's Digital Editor, Zoë is also a freelance journalist who has written for the Telegraph, HuffPost, and CNN, and a guidebook updater for the Rough Guide to France and Rough Guide to Dordogne & Lot. She lives in the French countryside just outside of Nantes.

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  •  Greg
    2021-12-08 12:06:07
    Of note lateral flow test before returning To Uk now counts whole days. ie if returning Friday get tested anytime Wednesday So long as you depart Friday it’s okay If it’s a very short trip ie returning to uk Within two days you can use the outward test for returning. Worth knowing if you have to pick up relatives


  • Jeremy Platt
    2021-12-07 07:14:57
    Jeremy Platt
    Hi - I'm travelling to France on Thursday, and I have a lateral flow test for home swabbing that, assuming a negative result, provides a QR code secured result certificate - from, who state that this test is accepted by France. Contrary to your point above about all home tests being ruled out because the test needs to detect the N protein, the product information with the test states '...lateral flow test for the qualitative detection of the nucleocapsid antigen...'. The N antigen is a protein. If I am stopped at the border, I'll let you know...!


    • Zoë Smith
      2021-12-09 12:30:15
      Zoë Smith
      Hi Jeremy, Sorry for any confusion - the home tests referred to in the article are the kind in which you take the test and process the results yourself at home. These kinds of tests are never accepted by France, as you will need a proper certificate with a QR code. I know that there are also PCR tests available in the UK that are self-administered at home, but the results are still processed by a laboratory, and therefore a travel QR code is issued. Providing those tests do test for the 'n protein', you shouldn't have a problem. Thanks!