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France to test its nationals arriving from 16 countries, including Israel

French citizens and residents arriving from Israel, US and 14 other countries will be quarantined if positive for COVID-19; non-residents from these countries are already barred

French Prime Minister Jean Castex (C), flanked by Director General of Assistance Publique-Hopitaux de Paris (AP-HP) Martin Hirsch (L) and French Health and Solidarity Minister Olivier Veran (2L) visits a COVID-19 testing unit set up to screen arriving passengers at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport on July 24, 2020 (Christophe PETIT TESSON / POOL / AFP)
French Prime Minister Jean Castex (C), flanked by Director General of Assistance Publique-Hopitaux de Paris (AP-HP) Martin Hirsch (L) and French Health and Solidarity Minister Olivier Veran (2L) visits a COVID-19 testing unit set up to screen arriving passengers at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport on July 24, 2020 (Christophe PETIT TESSON / POOL / AFP)

ROISSY-CHARLES DE GAULLE AIRPORT, France — France will require on-the-spot coronavirus tests for people arriving from 16 countries where the pandemic is circulating widely, Prime Minister Jean Castex said Friday.

France does not allow general travel to and from these countries, which include Israel, the United States and Brazil.

The announcement came as the number of new cases in France began to climb again, to more than 1,000 a day in hospitals, according to the health ministry’s DGS health directorate.

The tests will be for “French citizens who live in these countries or citizens of these countries with an established residence in France,” Castex told reporters at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport.

Travelers testing positive will have to spend 14 days in isolation to prevent the spread of the virus.

Castex said some of the high-risk countries already require airline passengers to show a negative virus test before boarding. It was not clear if those would be re-tested upon arrival in France.

He also did not specify if people would have to wait for their test results before being allowed to leave the airport.

The new premier’s response to the pandemic is being closely watched after his predecessor, Edouard Philippe, was thought by many to have handled it fairly well.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex (C), flanked by Minister of Solidarity and Health Olivier Veran (3L), French Junior Minister for Transports Jean-Baptiste Djebbari (2L) and Group ADP (Aeroports de Paris) Chief Executive Officer Augustin de Romanet (L) speaks with delegate prefect in charge of Roissy Charles de Gaulle, Bourget and Orly airports’ security Sophie Wolferman (C,R) during a visit at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport on July 24, 2020 (Christophe PETIT TESSON / POOL / AFP)

The virus has begun to spread again after the relaxation of lockdown measures and as people take fewer precautions.

“We have returned to levels comparable with those at the end of the lockdown period,” a DGS statement said.

“We have thus erased a good part of the progress made during the initial weeks” since the lockdown was lifted, it added.

French officials reported Friday that 30,192 people had died of COVID-19 to date, one of the highest numbers in Europe.

The “R” number that determines if the virus is spreading has risen to 1.3 meanwhile, indicating that it is.

France has thus decided to test travelers from countries where the virus is particularly virulent.

Along with Israel, United States and Brazil, which are reporting tens of thousands of new cases each day, the countries include Algeria, Bahrain, Israel, India, South Africa, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Panama, Peru, Serbia, Turkey and Madagascar.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex (L), flanked by the delegate prefect in charge of Roissy Charles de Gaulle, Bourget and Orly airports’ security Sophie Wolferman, waves during a visit at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport on July 24, 2020 (Christophe PETIT TESSON / POOL / AFP)

Morocco, which has reported rising cases in recent weeks, is not on the list for now but could be added later, an official in the prime minister’s office said.

Coronavirus tests will be rolled out across France by August 1, and will also be carried out at French ports, Castex said.

He also said that while France’s border with Spain would remain open for now despite a surge in cases in Catalonia, “we strongly urge French people to avoid going there until the health situation improves.”

As for people travelling to France from Spain, “we are in talks with the Spanish and Catalan authorities so that… they try to limit the flow as much as possible,” he said.

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