France Eases Restrictions before Welcoming Tourists in June

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France Eases Restrictions before Welcoming Tourists in June

After six months of closure, bars, restaurants and tourist attractions in France opened their doors on Wednesday. This marks the second stage of France's journey out of lockdown as it prepares to welcome tourists, including vaccinated US visitors, on June 9, before fully reopening the economy on June 30.

As France pushes ahead with its vaccination rollout, aiming for every adult to receive at least one dose of a vaccine before the end of the summer, businesses are once again throwing open their doors. Wednesday, May 19, marks the reopening of outdoor terraces in cafes and bars across France. Residents can climb the Eiffel Tower and visit the Louvre as cultural attractions, museums and theaters welcome visitors with pre-booked tickets. Non-essential shops and markets are also open, albeit with guidelines in place, and curfew has been rolled back from 7pm to 9pm.

As France works its way out of its third national lockdown, some COVID-19 rules remain in place. Masks are required in indoor public spaces and in some outdoor spaces in large towns and cities, and tourists from non-EU countries are currently banned (with the exception of the UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Israel, Japan and Singapore). That said, officials from the French government and the White House are finalizing the technical discussions around granting a "special pass" to allow US citzens to enter by June 9. This special pass will be extended to non-EU visitors who've been vaccinated.

What is the "special pass"?

Speaking to "Face the Nation" on CBS News in April, president Emmanuel Macron said that they are working hard to propose concrete solutions for travelers who have been vaccinated or test negative for COVID-19. More details about how a "special pass" would work were not revealed. Macron did, however, suggest that this pass might be part of the European "digital green pass"—a soon-to-be-launched app that indicates a traveler's vaccine and testing status.

The EU confirmed on Wednesday that it plans to open its borders to fully vaccinated travelers who've received jabs approved by the European Medicines Agency, including the Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. When the borders will open is still unknown but it's possible they'll open before high season, meaning the "digital green pass" could be introduced within weeks—however, more details are still to come. Other European countries have pushed ahead with their plans to reopen to tourism, with Italy already accepting Americans who travel to the country on COVID-tested flights.

Read more: The UK launches its vaccine passport as the EU develops its 'green pass'

By the time June 9 rolls around in France, visitors can look forward to the easing of further restrictions. Curfew will be pushed back to 11pm; indoor dining will return at 50% capacity; and non-essential shops will be allowed to ease social distancing guidelines. Adding another element of security to foreign visits, officials have confirmed that tourists can avail of free COVID PCR tests in France, should they be required for their return journey home (all airline passengers returning to the US must provide one). Details on how free testing would work for non-residents have not yet been revealed.

Source: Lonely Planet