France ends free testing for COVID-19

Health Ministry initiates mandatory payment for testing against coronavirus, charges apply to unvaccinated.

France ends free testing for COVID-19

From Friday, French citizens will need to pay for the PCR and antigenic tests against COVID-19, according to Health Ministry regulations.

The charge applies to tests taken at mass testing sites, local pharmacies, or doctor’s offices throughout the country.

Charges will vary between €22 ($25.5) and €45 ($52). Since the start of the pandemic, both testing methods have been covered by France’s national insurance programs. As of Friday, this will no longer apply.

Further vaccination will remain free for those who have completed a vaccination schedule, either one shot or two, and wish to get a booster. It will also be free for minors and all residents of the outlying territories of Guayana, Guadeloupe, and Martinique, until Nov. 15 -- the end of the state of the health emergency there -- as well as all residents of Mayotte, where there is no end date to a state of emergency.

The National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) under the Health Ministry reports that 6.6 million eligible adults remain unvaccinated in France, along with 11 million minors who are not yet able to receive a dose. To date, around 49.3 million people have been vaccinated. France’s total population stands at 67.39 million, according to the latest statistics from the World Bank.

Since March of 2020, 150 million tests have been conducted nationwide.

Last month, Prime Minister Jean Castex said: “It is no longer legitimate to pay excessively for comfort tests at the expense of taxpayers. The logic is to reimburse the test related to really medical reasons, and to continue to encourage to be vaccinated.”

On July 12, President Emmanuel Macron put in place the sanitary -- or health -- pass needed by all French people to enter restaurants, bars, cafes, entertainment halls, sports stadiums, and other public venues. The pass contains a QR code as proof of vaccination. Citizens can also show a recent negative test result within the last 48 hours or proof of recovery from COVID-19 in the past six months. It can be paper or downloaded to one’s phone and must be presented at entry.

After the institution of the sanitary pass, vaccination rates throughout France rose startlingly, with more than 1 million people making appointments within the first 24 hours and almost 10 million in the month thereafter.

Those strongly opposed to vaccination immediately launched protests that have taken place each weekend since.

The sanitary pass also may now be extended until July 31, 2022, the government said. Those who choose to remain unvaccinated must now pay for a test every time they wish to enter a public venue where the pass is required.

According to INSEE, the current testing rate in France stands at 3.2 million per week.