France to tackle Covid fourth wave with stricter border controls, health passports and compulsory vaccines

French President Emmanuel Macron has announced a package of measures to help France control a fourth wave of Covid cases, including stricter border controls, the extension of the health passport for more everyday activities and making the vaccine compulsory for all healthcare workers.

France to tackle Covid fourth wave with stricter border controls, health passports and compulsory vaccines
Photo: AFP

The president made the announcement in a live TV appearance as France faces a rapid increase in Covid cases driven by the delta variant.

Although overall numbers remain low – a weekly average of 5,000 new cases a week – they are climbing rapidly and the more transmissible delta variant of Covid is now the dominant strain in France.

“Our country is facing a surge in the epidemic across our territory, in mainland France as well as overseas,” Macron said at the start of the televised address.

“The situation is under control, but if we do not act now the number of cases will increase significantly and will lead to a rise in hospitalisations,” he said.

Urging everyone to get vaccinated as quickly as possible, the president laid out four main changes to the existing health policies.

Compulsory vaccines – from September 15th, the vaccine will become compulsory for healthcare workers and those who work with the elderly and vulnerable.

Macron said: “For health and non-health workers in hospitals, clinics, retirement homes, establishments for people with disabilities, for all professionals and volunteers who work in contact with elderly or vulnerable people, including in their homes, the vaccine will become obligatory.”

Calendar: France tightens the rules ahead of fourth wave of covid

Unvaccinated healthcare workers “will not be able to work and will not be paid” from September 15th, Health Minister Olivier Véran told LCI on Monday evening following the President’s announcements.

Depending on the evolution of the situation, we will without doubt have to consider obligatory vaccines for everyone in France,” Macron continued.

“But I am making the choice to trust, and I am solemnly calling upon all our fellow citizens who aren’t vaccinated to go get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

He added that vaccination “is the only path back towards a normal life”.

Health passport extension – The pass sanitaire (health passport) will be expanded until it is required for entry to venues including cinemas, restaurants, cafés, bars, nursing homes and for long-distance train and bus travel.

The health passport – giving proof of either vaccinated status, a negative Covid test or recent recovery from Covid – is already in use in France via the Tous Anti Covid app, but at present is used only for large venues like concerts and sports matches.

From July 21st it will be expanded to leisure and culture venues with more than 50 people such as cinemas, theatres and museums.

From the beginning of August – an exact date was not announced – it will be expanded again for use to enter bars, cafés, restaurants, hospitals, nursing homes and for long-distance travel by coach and train.

READ ALSO Can tourists use France’s health passport?

In the 12 hours following the president’s announcement, more than 1.3 million people went online to make a vaccine appointment.

OPINION: Macron is now coercing the French into getting vaccinated – and it seems that they like it

Charges for PCR tests – In the autumn – no exact date was given – non-medical PCR Covid tests will have to be paid for. This covers tests taken for travel purposes or for the health passport, but Covid tests taken for medical reasons such as for people with Covid symptoms or contact cases will continue to be free.

He did not specify how much the tests would be, but the cost of tests for non-residents of France is capped at €49.

The president referred only to PCR tests, but government spokesperson Gabriel Attal later confirmed to BFMTV that “this concerns both PCR and antigen tests.”

Travel restrictions –  Macron said the borders would be ‘reinforced’ with extra checks at the border and compulsory quarantine for unvaccinated people coming from high risk countries.

He said: “From this week, controls at our borders will be strengthened for those coming from high-risk countries, with strict isolation for unvaccinated travellers.”

Europe minister Clément Beaune later clarified that this involves tighter restrictions on unvaccinated entry from the UK, Spain and Portugal – full details here.

State of emergency – The French overseas départements of Réunion and Martinique have been placed back under a state of health emergency from Tuesday, but for mainland France, no extra restrictions such as lockdown or closures were announced.

Covid case numbers in France, which had been falling steadily for many weeks, have in the past fortnight plateaued and begun to rise again.

Although the daily figures remain relatively low – a weekly average of 5,000 cases a day – health experts are concerned that the delta variant of the virus could drive a very rapid rise in case numbers, as has already happened across the Channel where the UK is recording 35,000 cases a day.

Data from the UK, which has a higher percentage of the population vaccinated than France, shows that hospitalisation rates are rising, but much more slowly than in earlier phases of the virus.

Member comments

  1. Any idea how the health passport works for tourists or French citizens who have been vaccinated in other countries.

    1. You have to carry some proof of vaccination (ideally paper-based) and hope it will be accepted (unless it’s an EU certificate – then it’s fine).

      1. Thanks a lot… I hope the staff at the restaurants and shopping centers checking the app will be aware of this process that not everyone can display the vaccination proof on the app and they have to accept paper based certificates from other countries ( the caveat being there is no way to validate their authenticity)

        1. I suspect in more tourist-y areas you won’t have any issues – elsewhere lack of French translation might be a bit of an issue. However most places are way more interested in people spending money than in any health regulations – so checks should be lax.

  2. I have also been fully vaccinated with AstraZenica when living in Dubai , will my vaccinations details be accepted on the french app ?

    1. I pressume only if it is ‘the right’ = not made in India AZ vaccine, because the Indian AZ is not EU approved yet.

  3. what has not been explained yet is how to get medical exemption from the vaccine
    I have health issues which would mean taking the vaccine could be dangerous
    no explanation as to how to get exemption and / or will it be added to the health certificate app

  4. None of this sits very well with VDL’s joyous announcement a few days ago that the EU’s vaccination programme was going brilliantly. Meanwhile, across the Channel, no mandatory vaccinations on the general population, no health passports and no restrictions at all from next week. Something doesn’t add up.

    1. UK has 7-8 times more COVID cases already, and the numbers keep going up even before the removal of restrictions next week. Hospitalisations are rapidly increasing too. And that’s despite the higher vaccination numbers.

      It would appear that the French government doesn’t want to conduct the same libertarian experiment as the Tories are imposing on Britain – the same experiment on ‘herd immunity by infection’ that they tried first in March 2020. Britain is the Petri dish of the world and that’s nothing to brag about.

  5. The French Government have invited fully vaccinated Brits and Americans into the country as tourists for the summer. However, vaccine certificates from both countries can not be downloaded to the French Health Pass. So, does this mean that any American or British tourists in the country when these measures take place will not be able to book a train trip in the country or go to any restaurants or museums as they will not have the French Health Pass?

    1. Vaccination certificates will be checked at the point of entry – not during booking. At the time of checks you can show alternative forms of certificates.

        1. My French is not good enough to find a precise source – but that’s how it already works here with concerts and night clubs. You are asked for pass sanitaire at the entry point, not when you are buying tickets online.

          There’s no possibility of doing it any other way – pass sanitaire is only stored on people’s phones, not in some central database.

  6. So basically he’s doing bugger all like he did the same time last year and look what happened in the autumn. Let’s face it, money is more important then health and after all there is an election due. Even the Dutch PM had the guts to apologise for opening up the country too early.

    1. He massively increased incentives to get vaccinated and added safety precautions against virus spread. Eventually this will go towards a semi-lockdown only for unvaccinated. How is this “bugger all” ?

      1. Because most of this people were already doing this. What is really needed is another restriction on travel and a curfew. What incentives to get vaccinated except for health workers? I bet your one of the ones that think just because you have been vaccinated everything is alright. Well I hate to burst your bubble but you can still catch and more importantly spread it.

        1. Most people aren’t fully vaccinated yet – so extra push is needed…

          Yes, I’m vaccinated – so I’m 90-95% less likely to get COVID and nearly 100% safe from being on a ventilator. That’s pretty f-ing good.

          What incentives? Well, if you are not vaccinated – you’ll have to get tested each time you want to go to the gym, restaurant, bar, train / airplane, museum, cinema. And pay for that test from your own pocket. That’s a big incentive, don’t you think?

          On the other hand, why get vaccinated if I’ll have to sit at home in the endless confinement anyway?

          In any case, future curfews or confinements will probably be limited to unvaccinated only. Germany already announced that, and there are some murmurs from the French government too. Additional incentive + way to minimise the economic damage.

  7. Measured and reasonable steps being taken and a timely reminder to the populace not to let down their guard just because it is summer.

    Also notably (and pleasantly) absent from the address were false promises and arbitrary deadlines. Post presidency he could do well to open a finishing school for aspirant world leaders… 🙂

    1. ” Post presidency he could do well to open a finishing school for aspirant world leaders… ”

      I do hope that was sarcasm?

  8. Is there any information about people vaccinated outside the EU who don’t have a QR code (I have a US vaccine card)? Will we be stuck unable to go anywhere unless we get revaccinated in France?

  9. My body, my choice!
    I will not be forced to get this experimental injection into my body!
    If I’ll not be allowed to go to various venues, so be it.

  10. Wonderful news! I support making them compulsory for everyone. Every person has a responsibility and obligation to get the vaccine. Not just for yourself but to protect your fellow humans. This is a bold and necessary move on Macron’s part.

    1. Wow. You’re quite a bit of a dictator yourself.
      If you’re vaccinated, you’re safe – right? So, what does it matter if someone else is vaccinated or not?
      If you want to take the vaccine, take it. You must believe it’s effective, correct? What’s the point in taking it if it’s not effective?
      This is about control. It’s not about health. Police don’t have to take it. Why do you think that is? Can’t they spread the virus?
      There are so many inconsistencies in this agenda… open your eyes. We Are Being Lied To.

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End of the pandemic? What the expiry of Sweden’s Covid laws really means

With the expiry of Sweden's two temporary Covid-19 laws, the downgrading of the virus's threat classification, and the end of the last travel restrictions, April, officially at least, marks the end of the pandemic. We explain what it means.

End of the pandemic? What the expiry of Sweden's Covid laws really means

What are the two laws which expire on April 1st? 

Sweden’s parliament voted last week to let the two temporary laws put in place to battle the Covid-19 pandemic expire on April 1st.

The first law is the so-called Covid-19 law, or “the law on special restrictions to limit the spread of the Covid-19 illness”, which was used during the pandemic to temporarily empower the authorities to limit the number of visitors to shops, gyms, and sports facilities. It also gave the government power to limit the number of people who could gather in public places like parks and beaches. 

The second law was the “law on temporary restrictions at serving places”. This gave the authorities, among other things, the power to limit opening times, and force bars and restaurants to only serve seated customers.  

What impact will their expiry have? 

The immediate impact on life in Sweden will be close to zero, as the restrictions imposed on the back of these two laws were lifted months ago. But it does means that if the government does end up wanting to bring back these infection control measures, it will have to pass new versions of the laws before doing so. 

How is the classification of Covid-19 changing? 

The government decided at the start of February that it would stop classifying Covid-19 both as a “critical threat to society” and “a disease that’s dangerous to the public” on April 1st.

These classifications empowered the government under the infectious diseases law that existed in Sweden before the pandemic to impose health checks on inbound passengers, place people in quarantine, and ban people from entering certain areas, among other measures. 

What impact will this change have? 

Now Covid-19 is no longer classified as “a disease that’s dangerous to the public”, or an allmänfarlig sjukdom, people who suspect they have caught the virus, are no longer expected to visit a doctor or get tested, and they cannot be ordered to get tested by a court on the recommendation of an infectious diseases doctor. People with the virus can also no longer be required to aid with contact tracing or to go into quarantine. 

Now Covid-19 is no longer classified as “a critical threat to society”, or samhällsfarlig, the government can no longer order health checks at border posts, quarantine, or ban people from certain areas. 

The end of Sweden’s last remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions

Sweden’s last remaining travel restriction, the entry ban for non-EU arrivals, expired on March 31st.  This means that from April 1st, Sweden’s travel rules return to how they were before the Covid-19 pandemic began. 

No one will be required to show a vaccination or test certificate to enter the country, and no one will be barred from entering the country because their home country or departure country is not deemed to have a sufficiently good vaccination program or infection control measures. 

Does that mean the pandemic is over? 

Not as such. Infection rates are actually rising across Europe on the back of yet another version of the omicron variant. 

“There is still a pandemic going on and we all need to make sure that we live with it in a balanced way,” the Public Health Agency’s director-general, Karin Tegmark Wisell, told SVT

Her colleague Sara Byfors told TT that this included following the “fundamental recommendation to stay home if you are sick, so you don’t spread Covid-19 or any other diseases”.