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COVID-19 RULES

EXPLAINED: The rules and official advice for New Year in France

As the end of the year approaches, here are the health restrictions in place in France, as well as the official advice for celebrating New Year with loved ones.

EXPLAINED: The rules and official advice for New Year in France
Raise a glass with loved ones safely this New year. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Rules

Health pass – if you’re heading out to a bar, café or restaurant, you will need to show the health pass with either proof of vaccination, recent recovery from Covid or a negative Covid test taken within the past 24 hours. If you’re over the age of 65 and had your second vaccine shot more than 7 months ago, you will need to have a booster in order to keep your pass activated.

Masks – masks are compulsory on all public transport and in all indoor public spaces – including venues such as bars, cafés and museums that are covered by the health pass.

Many local authorities have brought in extra mask rules covering outdoor public spaces, so make sure you check local rules where you are. If you intend to ski, you will need a mask and a health pass to access ski lifts.

Gatherings

Public gatherings of more than 2,000 people – or more than 5,000 people outdoors – are banned. Most local authorities had already cancelled the traditional New Year’s Eve fireworks and concerts, but concerts with a standing audience are also banned.

Dancing

Nightclubs are closed for at least the next three weeks, while dancing in bars and cafés is also banned.

Bars/cafés/restaurants

These remain open, but with for seated customers only, standing at the bar is not allowed.

Eating

Eating in restaurants is allowed, but consuming food or drink in a number of public venues where people gather in large groups is no longer allowed. These are: sports events and in stadiums, concert halls, cinemas and theatres and on all public transport, including long-distance trains.

Travel – travel within France is unrestricted, although you will need a health pass for long-distance train journeys. International travel is more complicated. If you’re travelling in the EU you will need only either proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test result, but if you’re travelling outside the EU you need to check the traffic lights map for travel restrictions. Travel to and from the UK is banned in all but a very small number of cases – full details here.

Paris

If you’re in Paris, there are extra restrictions put in place by local authorities and police.

  • Bars, even those with a late licence, must close by 2am on January 1st and 2nd
  • The consumption of alcohol in certain public places is banned between 6pm on December 31st and January 1st, these areas include the banks of the Seine and Île-de-la-Cité
  • Face masks must be worn in all outdoor areas

Local rules

Paris is not the only place where local authorities have imposed extra rules, and many places have their own outdoor mask mandates, so check the local restrictions where you are.

Most local authorities have cancelled New Year fireworks and concerts, even those with fewer than 5,000 people which are allowed under the national rules.

Recommendations

The above are rules with penalties in place for breaking them – if you’re caught without a mask you face a €135 fine while can you be refused entry to venues without a health pass. But there are also a number of official recommendations for celebrating safely.

Limit gatherings – last year we had the ‘rule of 6’ for festive gatherings in private homes. This year there is no number, but people are advised to keep groups small and ensure that everyone is vaccinated and tested if the group includes any vulnerable people such as the elderly. 

Ventilation – if you’re having a gathering in your home you are advised to keep it well ventilated, opening a window or door for 10 minutes in every hour (the same advice as is already in place for workplaces).

Testing – if you intend to travel or meet up with friends and family over New Year, it is advised to take a test in advance, particularly if you intend to meet up with someone in a vulnerable group such as the elderly.

Jean-François Delfraissy, head of the Scientific Council, recommends either a self-test on the day of the event or an antigen test the day before. PCR tests are recommended only for people with symptoms, but antigen tests can be accessed on a walk-in basis at the pharmacy, while self-test kits are available in pharmacies for around €6.

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COVID-19 ALERT

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

A resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Europe, this time driven by new, fast-spreading Omicron subvariants, is once again threatening to disrupt people's summer plans.

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

Several Western European nations have recently recorded their highest daily case numbers in months, due in part to Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

The increase in cases has spurred calls for increased vigilance across a continent that has relaxed most if not all coronavirus restrictions.

The first resurgence came in May in Portugal, where BA.5 propelled a wave that hit almost 30,000 cases a day at the beginning of June. That wave has since started to subside, however.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

Italy recorded more than 62,700 cases on Tuesday, nearly doubling the number from the previous week, the health ministry said. 

Germany meanwhile reported more than 122,000 cases on Tuesday. 

France recorded over 95,000 cases on Tuesday, its highest daily number since late April, representing a 45-percent increase in just a week.

Austria this Wednesday recorded more than 10,000 for the first time since April.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Cases have also surged in Britain, where there has been a seven-fold increase in Omicron reinfection, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS blamed the rise on the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, but also said Covid fell to the sixth most common cause of death in May, accounting for 3.3 percent of all deaths in England and Wales.

BA.5 ‘taking over’

Mircea Sofonea, an epidemiologist at the University of Montpellier, said Covid’s European summer wave could be explained by two factors.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

One is declining immunity, because “the protection conferred by an infection or a vaccine dose decreases in time,” he told AFP.

The other came down to the new subvariants BA.4 and particularly BA.5, which are spreading more quickly because they appear to be both more contagious and better able to escape immunity.

Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity unit at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said BA.5 was “taking over” because it is 10 percent more contagious than BA.2.

“We are faced with a continuous evolution of the virus, which encounters people who already have antibodies — because they have been previously infected or vaccinated — and then must find a selective advantage to be able to sneak in,” he said.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in France

But are the new subvariants more severe?

“Based on limited data, there is no evidence of BA.4 and BA.5 being associated with increased infection severity compared to the circulating variants BA.1 and BA.2,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said last week.

But rising cases can result in increasing hospitalisations and deaths, the ECDC warned.

Could masks be making a comeback over summer? (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Alain Fischer, who coordinates France’s pandemic vaccine strategy, warned that the country’s hospitalisations had begun to rise, which would likely lead to more intensive care admissions and eventually more deaths.

However, in Germany, virologist Klaus Stohr told the ZDF channel that “nothing dramatic will happen in the intensive care units in hospitals”.

Return of the mask? 

The ECDC called on European countries to “remain vigilant” by maintaining testing and surveillance systems.

“It is expected that additional booster doses will be needed for those groups most at risk of severe disease, in anticipation of future waves,” it added.

Faced with rising cases, last week Italy’s government chose to extend a requirement to wear medical grade FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30.

“I want to continue to recommend protecting yourself by getting a second booster shot,” said Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who recently tested positive for Covid.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to ‘entire population’

Fischer said France had “clearly insufficient vaccination rates” and that a second booster shot was needed.

Germany’s government is waiting on expert advice on June 30 to decide whether to reimpose mandatory mask-wearing rules indoors.

The chairman of the World Medical Association, German doctor Frank Ulrich Montgomery, has recommended a “toolbox” against the Covid wave that includes mask-wearing, vaccination and limiting the number of contacts.

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