With a deteriorating health situation, the French Prime Minister has decreed a state of national health emergency from 17 October 2020. People who are planning essential business travel to France must therefore be aware of new restrictions.
In accordance with the recommendations of the European Commission, France lifted all travel restrictions at its European borders. People from countries in the European area (Member States of the European Union plus Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland and the Vatican) can enter French national territory without facing restrictions related to the fight against COVID-19.
The Decree n°2020 860 of 10 July 2020 (lastly modified on 29 October 2020)1 requires passengers from countries outside the European area to present to the air carrier before boarding, a sworn statement certifying that they do not have any symptoms of a COVID-19 infection and that they are not aware of having been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the preceding fourteen days ("attestation sur l'honneur"), as well as a travel certificate ("attestation de déplacement international")2.
In addition, this Decree introduces a requirement for travelers aged 11 years old and over to present a negative "RT PCR COVID" test, carried out less than 72 hours before the flight as follows:
- for travelers from Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, or Panama, the presentation of a negative RT PCR test, carried out less than 3 days before departure at the time of boarding the flight is mandatory; otherwise, the passenger will not be able to board;
- for travelers from other countries outside the European area, any failure to present such a document upon arrival in France means that such travelers should be directed to a health checkpoint at the airport in order for such an examination to be carried out. In case of refusal, the travelers must complete a 7 day quarantine.
Sanitary measures applicable in France
Preventative behaviours and social distancing
In order to avoid the transmission of the virus, it is recommended by the French health authorities to respect certain preventative behaviours mainly consisting of regular hand washing, using disposable tissues, avoiding shaking hands/hugs, keeping at least a one metre distance between individuals as well as regularly cleaning objects and surfaces that have been touched.
These preventative behaviours must be implemented in the company premises in accordance with the National Protocol for the Health and Safety ("Protocole national pour assurer la santé et la sécurité des travailleurs").
Under the National Protocol, business meetings should be held via audio and video conferencing and not in person, including when all employees attending the meeting are present on the premises.
Wearing a mask
Since July 2020, wearing a mask is mandatory in all enclosed spaces, in addition to preventative behaviours.
The wearing of masks is also mandatory in company premises pursuant to the National Protocol, in particular in shared spaces and during professional meetings.
In addition, it should be noted that a mask must also be worn in all public areas (and streets) of most major French cities (such as Paris, Lyon, Strasbourg).
A new Decree n°2020 1310 of 29 October 2020 sets up a containment order encompassing the entire French territory as from 30 October 2020 (and at least until 1 December 2020).
As a consequence of the containment order, only journeys between the place of residence and the place(s) where professional activity is carried out (when teleworking is not possible), as well as business trips that cannot be postponed, are authorized. These journeys must be justified by a certificate issued by the employer. The certificates to be completed by the employer are available on the French Ministry of the Interior's website.
Moreover, establishments open to the public (e.g., shopping centers, cinemas, restaurants, etc.) must remain closed until the end of the containment but hotels benefit from an exemption allowing them to stay open to accommodate their guests (including essential services such as room service).
Failure to comply with the containment order may trigger a first fine of up to EUR135 (and up to EUR3,750 and a 6 month imprisonment in the event of a repeated offence).
Business travelers must therefore ensure that they have all adequate certificates with them to justify their trips to France if stopped by the public authorities at the airport and on the road to their destination.
Please note that additional restrictions (e.g. curfew) could be implemented in the coming weeks as the pandemic develops.
Cecilia Grosjean (Associate, White & Case, Paris) contributed to the development of this publication.
1 As amended by the Decree n°2020 911 of 27 July 2020,the Decree n°2020 1262 of 16 October 2020 and the Decree n°2020 1310 of 29 October 2020
2 These documents are available at https://www.interieur.gouv.fr/.
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