As France enters its fourth wave of the pandemic with infections rising sharply, the government passed a law on Monday requiring health passes for all restaurants, cafes, bars and long-distance transport networks from August 1. It’s an extension of a pass that currently covers access to many cultural, entertainment and leisure venues across France—and is required of both locals and tourists.
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 came into effect on July 21, granting the holder access to any leisure or cultural venue across France with a capacity of more than 50 people, including museums, galleries, theaters, cinemas, concert halls, exhibition spaces, nightclubs, discos, zoos, open-air festivals, sporting venues, theme parks, libraries, swimming pools, and tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower.
On Monday, the government agreed that from August 1 the health pass will be extended to restaurants, cafes and bars (both indoors and outdoors), some shopping centers, 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 as well.
Visitors to the Eiffel Tower as it reopened on July 15 after months of closure ©Getty Images
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.”
— U.S. Embassy France (@USEmbassyFrance) July 22, 2021
If you’re traveling from the US, your CDC vaccination card won’t be compatible with the French system. According to tweets from the US Embassy in France: “As of July 21, the French government has not provided official information on obtaining a health pass for people vaccinated outside the European Union”. The embassy notes that some US travelers have been able to have their vaccination information entered into the French system by a French doctor or pharmacist, while others have been told this isn’t possible. As the system remains unclear, please check the latest information with the US Embassy in France.
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.”
1-Vous pouvez maintenant scanner votre QR code NHS le plus récent dans l’app. “TousAntiCovid”
2-L’app. « TousAntiCovid verif » (TAC verif) permettant de vérifier la validité des QR code ne permet pas encore de lire ceux du NHS 👉 une preuve de vaccination du NHS est nécessaire. pic.twitter.com/ztETIORkkE
— ConsulFranceLondres (@ConsulFranceUK) July 23, 2021
If you’re traveling from elsewhere, check your local embassy for information. It is possible 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 last week 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,” 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. And already it seems to have paid off. On Monday, president Emmanuel Macron said on Twitter that more than four million doses have been administered over the past two weeks, meaning that about 60% of the French population is now vaccinated. For more information on the health pass, see here.
This article was first published on July 21 and updated on July 27, 2021.
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