The emergence of the new omicron variant has led France to once again alter its entry requirements, including a big change for Americans traveling to the country.
Over the weekend, new rules went into effect requiring all travelers to present a negative COVID test taken within 48 hours of entry, regardless of vaccination status.
The rule applies to travelers from most countries in the world — including the United States — which fall under the orange designation on France’s classification status.
Orange status means worrisome variants have been found in the country but in a controlled proportion.
Twenty countries fall under green status, including Canada, meaning no active circulation of the variants has been observed. Those residents can enter France with no restrictions if they have proof of vaccination.
For those in the orange category, which includes Americans, proof of vaccination and proof of a negative test are required for anyone age 12 or older. Those who are unvaccinated must show a compelling reason why they need to enter the country, must show proof of a negative test, and must self-isolate for 7 days upon entry.
France is instituting the measures as cases are starting to spike in the country. In late November, the country was averaging about 28,000 new COVID cases per day. That number is up to more than 41,000 over the past week, including 51,624 on Saturday, the highest one-day total in France since April.
The new travel measures were an immediate step taken by government officials who are trying to avoid putting the country into another lockdown.
“Our wish is to be able to spend Christmas together,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Friday.
Even tighter measures were to be discussed early this week.
The first case of the omicron variant was confirmed in France late last week in a patient outside of Paris. Attal said it wasn’t surprising.
“Let’s not be fooled nor naive,” Attal said. “There will most likely be (omicron) cases in our territory in the coming hours or the coming days.”
French officials, like many others around the world, are attempting to get ahead of omicron in a better fashion than was done with the delta variant earlier in the year. That variant, which proved to be more difficult to deal with than the original coronavirus, hit many countries hard after restrictions and protocols had been relaxed.
The government’s top health advisor said swift actions are needed to protect residents and the country as a whole.
“Christmas is not a risk if the population and decision-makers are all very cautious,” said Jean-Francois Delfraissy, according to Reuters.
Delfraissy said social distancing, masks, and booster shots are key weapons in the fight.