The French government has now made it legally necessary to be vaccinated to access cultural events, theme parks, ski lifts, eateries, bars and most forms of long-distance transport–the bill was passed on Sunday 16 January and will likely be in place by Friday 21 January 2022.
Here are the finer points to know for travel into, and across the country.
France’s Health Pass is now a Vaccine Pass and legally binding
European countries have been using the EU Digital Covid Certificate since summer last year to allow EU citizens to travel freely within EU countries. That means that anyone who is 1) fully vaccinated, 2) who has had Covid-19 or 3) who can show proof of a negative Covid-19 test result is allowed to pass across the borders freely as EU citizens.
Each country runs its own system and in France, this is called a Health Pass (le pass sanitaire) and is operated through the application TousAntiCovid (everyone against Covid). In France, this also allows access to restaurants, bars, cafés, malls, cinemas and long-distance buses and trains.
The French government has now gone one step further, however, and turned this Health pass into a Vaccine Pass (le pass vaccinal). Under these new steps, people have to be vaccinated to access the same events, transport networks and places–a negative Covid-19 test result will no longer suffice.
French President Emmanuel Macron is in the middle of running a reelection campaign (the polls open for the first round in April 2022) and a fundamental part of his campaign is to come down hard on the unvaccinated. Macron came under fire after he recently told a journalist, “les non-vaccinés, j’ai très envie de les emmerder”–which can be translated as wanting to “piss off” the unvaccinated.
The French senate (the final hurdle for the government bringing this into law) voted in favor of the pass vaccinal on Sunday night, meaning that it will likely become law on 21st January 2022, although the exact date is to be confirmed.
What will change?
For the 90% of French people over 12 who are vaccinated, nothing will change.
However, anyone who is not vaccinated will obviously be prevented from eating out, attending cultural events or traveling long-distance. The new pass is also required in theme parks, such as Disneyland Paris and also in ski resorts to use ski lifts.
There are some exceptions:
- Children aged 12-16 will only be required to use a Health Pass, meaning that they can still get tested to be up-to-date on their requirements. However, testing is no longer free in France, so this can add quite a hefty sum onto the price of a family holiday.
- Unvaccinated people can still use long-distance buses and trains (and planes) if there is an “imperative reason of a family or health nature”–so a negative test result would be allowed in the case of a dying relative, for instance.
- Under specific conditions, doctors can declare people exempt from needing to be vaccinated under law.
Whilst the pass is not required in hotels and holiday cottages, owners can refuse people and make it a condition of being allowed to stay–it would also be a requirement for communal spaces such as bars and pools.
What does it mean to be “fully vaccinated” in France?
The definition of being fully vaccinated has become a little more exacting with the new law:
- People must have had two doses of AstraZeneca, Pfizer or Moderna vaccines more than one week ago, or a single dose of Janssen one month ago (28 days).
- One dose of any of these three two-dose vaccines is acceptable if someone has had Covid-19.
- If the final dose of the vaccine was more than 7 months ago, a booster jab is mandatory to keep the Pass Vaccinal active.
What about visitors to France?
The situation is obviously more complicated for visitors who have followed other countries guidelines for vaccination, which might not be valid in France.
For instance, anyone vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine but not an EMA-approved vaccine (Covaxin, Sinopharm and Sinovac) would need to have had at least one EMA-approved vaccine dose to be considered fully vaccinated for the Pass Vaccinal. Sputnik and other vaccines are not recognised.
U.K. travelers can show their vaccination certificate in the NHS app and many non-EU nationals can try to convert their vaccination certificates at French pharmacies–U.S. travelers can do this, for instance.
To enter France, travelers can show a vaccination certificate from any country and a booster is not a requirement, at present, to enter (although that might likely change over the course of 2022, as per wider-EU recommendations).
France is currently operating travel restrictions requiring all travelers to arrive with a negative Covid-19 test result if they arrive from a non-EU country, even if they are vaccinated.