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.”
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”.
Parce que la vaccination de tous les Français est le seul chemin vers le retour à la vie normale. https://t.co/ynFkwqARW6
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) July 12, 2021
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.
In the 12 hours following the president’s announcement, more than 1.3 million people went online to make a vaccine appointment.
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.