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HEALTH

Can American visitors use vaccine passports for travel or leisure in France?

With travel from the USA and Canada to France opening up at long last, fully vaccinated Americans have been asking if they can access the French and European health passports. Here is the situation.

Can American visitors use vaccine passports for travel or leisure in France?
Photo: Pascal Pochard Casablanca/AFP

There are two ways you can benefit from fully vaccinated status in France (aside from the obvious benefit of being at much lower risk of death or serious illness from Covid): travel and access to leisure activities.

In vaccine certificate terms it’s where you were vaccinated that counts, not where you live or what passport you hold, so this article refers to anyone who received their vaccines in the USA.

Travel

Both the USA and Canada are on France green list for travel, which means all travellers can come for any reason, including tourism and family visits.

EXPLAINED How does France’s traffic light system for travel work?

Non-vaccinated travellers need to show a negative Covid test at the border, while vaccinated travellers need to show only proof of vaccination.

From July 1st, the EU’s digital vaccine passport scheme is up and running, allowing free travel within the EU and Schengen zone. Unfortunately, however, people vaccinated in the USA cannot currently access this (talks are apparently ongoing).

In the absence of a digital vaccine passport, it is still possible to show a vaccine certificate at the border – this needs to be a certificate from the issuing health authority that complies to EU or WHO standards – showing the person’s details, date of vaccination, type of vaccine used and a batch number.

This can be presented either on paper or in a digital format, but any QR codes issued by American States or health authorities cannot currently be scanned by French border officials.

Onward travel

If you’re planning to travel somewhere else after France, it’s worth noting that all EU countries have their own rules on travellers from the USA and they are not all the same, so check the rules in your destination country before setting off from France.

Leisure

Once you’re in France, you may also need to prove your vaccine status to access certain venues.

The domestic pass sanitaire (health pass) is not needed for cafés, shops, museums or most tourist sites, but is required for larger events and nightclubs.

Any event that has a crowd of more than 1,000 people requires a health pass to enter – including sports matches, festivals or concerts.

READ ALSO When and where will you need a French health passport this summer?

You can access the pass via the French Covid tracker app – TousAntiCovid – which is available in the app store and is compatible with non-French smartphones.

It requires one of three things; a vaccination certificate, a recent negative Covid test or proof of recent recovery from Covid.

Unfortunately, however, non-EU vaccine certificates cannot be scanned into the app.

People vaccinated outside the EU therefore have a choice: take a Covid test in France and scan the result into the app or present a paper certificate of vaccination at the venue. Paper certificates are accepted, but it may take a little longer or involve going into a different queue if the venue organisers have an automated QR code scanning system in place.

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HEALTH

Where in France are there concerns about pesticides in drinking water

An investigation has revealed that tap water supplied to some 12 million people in France was sometimes contaminated with high levels of pesticides last year.

Where in France are there concerns about pesticides in drinking water

Data from regional health agencies, and collated by Le Monde, found that supplies to about 20 percent of the population, up from 5.9 percent the year previously, failed to consistently meet regional quality standards. 

The study highlighted regional differences in tap water quality. Hauts-de-France water was the most likely to be affected, with 65 percent of the population there drinking water contaminated by unacceptable pesticide levels. In Brittany, that level fell to 43 percent; 25.5 percent in the Grand-Est, and 25 percent in the Pays de la Loire.

Occitanie, in southwest France, meanwhile, showed the lowest level of non-compliance with standards, with just 5.1 percent of the region’s population affected by high pesticide levels in their tap water. However, figures show that 71 percent of people in one département in the region, Gers, were supplied with water containing high levels of pesticides.

Regional discrepancies in testing, including what chemicals are tested for, mean that results and standards are not uniform across France. Tap water in Haute-Corse is tested for 24 pesticide molecules; in Hauts-de-Seine, that figure rises to 477. 

One reason for regional testing standards are differences in local agricultural requirements.

Part of the increase in the year-on-year number of households supplied with affected water may also be explained by the fact that tests in many regions now seek to trace more molecules, Le Monde noted.

Water quality standards in France are strict – with a limit for pesticide residues set at 0.1 microgramme per litre, so the “high” levels found in tap water supplies may not represent a danger to health.

The question of the level of health risk to humans, therefore, remains unclear. The Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l’alimentation, de l’environnement et du travail (Anses) has not defined a maximum safety level for 23 pesticides or their metabolites. Le Monde cites two metabolites of chloridazone, a herbicide used until 2020 on beet fields, for which only provisional safety levels in tap water have been set. 

Many of these molecules and their long-term effects remain unknown – and “the long-term health effects of exposure to low doses of pesticides are difficult to assess,” admits the Ministry of Health.

Michel Laforcade, former director general of the ARS Nouvelle-Aquitaine told Le Monde that health authorities have “failed” on this subject. 

“One day, we will have to give an account,” he said. “It may not be on the same scale as the contaminated blood affair, but it could become the next public health scandal.”

In December 2020, the Direction générale de la santé (DGS) recommended “restricting uses of water” as soon as the 0.1 micrograms per litre quality threshold is exceeded, in cases of residues for which there is no formal maximum health value.

But this principle is not always applied, according to France 2’s Complètement d’enquête programme.

In December 2021, the DGS asked the Haut conseil de la santé publique (HCSP) “for support on the management of health risks associated with the presence of pesticides and pesticide metabolites in water intended for human consumption.”

The HCSP, in response, said that “an active and urgent policy must be implemented to reduce the contamination of resources by pesticides”.

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