As France enters its fourth wave of the pandemic with infections rising sharply, the government is today rolling out a compulsory health pass for access to cultural and leisure venues and—later down the line—access to restaurants, cafes, bars and long-distance transport networks.
If you're traveling to France, here's a guide to understanding what the health pass is, where you need to present it, and how you can sign up for it.
What is the health pass?
The pass sanitaire (health pass) indicates that the holder has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (in France that means one week after the final dose of a Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccine course or 28 days after a Johnson & Johnson vaccine), has recovered from the virus within the last six months, or has tested negative in the past 48 hours with either a PCR or antigen test.
It comes into effect today, granting the holder access to any leisure or cultural venue across France with a capacity of more than 50 people, including museums, theaters, concert halls, exhibition spaces, festivals, sporting venues, theme parks, libraries, swimming pools, theme parks and attractions like the Eiffel Tower.
From August 1, the health pass is expected to be extended to restaurants, cafes and bars (both indoors and outdoors), long-distance trains and coaches, domestic flights, hospitals and nursing homes.
It's required of anyone over 18 years old and by August 30, it will be extended to children between the ages of 12 and 17 too.
Do tourists need to sign up for the health pass?
If you're traveling from the EU, you can present your digital COVID-19 certificate or any approved European health certificate that documents your vaccination or testing status. The French embassy in Germany confirms that if the certificate issued to you appears with a European flag, your certificate is compatible and "will be recognised during [checks] in France in the same way as French certificates."
If you're traveling from the US, your CDC vaccination card won't be compatible with the French system.
You can present your CDC card to enter France, of course, and once you're there the US embassy explains that you can present your CDC card to a pharmacy or medical facility and "any willing French doctor or pharmacist can enter the vaccination information in the French system". This will then generate a paper or digital (through the French Tous Anti Covid app) version of the health pass.
If you're traveling from the UK, the French embassy in the UK confirms that you can "present your NHS certificate through the NHS app, by downloading or printing the document, or by presenting your NHS letter" instead.
If you're traveling from elsewhere, check your local embassy for information. It's likely that the certificate you need to enter France can be converted into the French system by a pharmacist or doctor but check ahead before making any appointments.
I'm not vaccinated, where can I get tested in France?
Testing is widely available in France in most pharmacies and medical facilities but you'll generally need to make an appointment in advance. Most pharmacies can do antigen tests for about €25, and PCR tests can cost about €45.
When using the health pass, your testing status is only valid for 48 hours, which means you'll need to be regularly tested to enter venues.
Why is it being introduced?
France is entering the fourth wave of the pandemic, with government spokesperson Gabriel Attal telling reporters at a press conference on Monday that cases are rising "by nearly 125% in one week," a figure that hasn't been seen since the start of the pandemic.
The highly transmissible Delta variant now accounts for about 80% of infections. “We have entered a fourth wave of the virus," Mr Attal said. "The dynamics of the pandemic are extremely strong. We are seeing a wave faster, a steeper slope than all the previous ones."
The spread of the Delta variant has been compounded by a slow vaccine uptake in France in recent weeks.
By introducing the pass, the government hopes that more residents will be encouraged to sign up to the vaccine campaign.
Source: Lonely Planet