France to impose health pass in shopping centres despite court advice

The French government intends to require visitors to large shopping centres to carry a health pass, despite concerns from the country’s highest administrative court that this would infringe on people's freedoms.

France to impose health pass in shopping centres despite court advice
The Conseil d'Etat building in Paris. Photo: Bertrand Guay | AFP

But the government has adapted other planned rules in the bill extending Covid-19 public health measures, following an advisory opinion provided on Monday afternoon by the Council of State, which scrutinises bills before they come to parliament.

The Council of State had recommended against requiring anyone going to a large shopping mall to have a health pass, showing either proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test. It did agree, however, that authorities should be able to impose mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations on healthcare workers and oblige anyone who tests positive to self-isolate for 10 days.

On the day the bill was presented to the Council of Ministers, before being put before MPs later this week, the Council of State said the requirement for visitors to shopping centres to carry a health pass constituted a “disproportionate infringement of freedoms”.

It said those who are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons would face having to take regular tests simply to shop for “basic goods, including food”.

Calendar: The key dates to know as France tightens Covid restrictions

The government, however, seems determined to keep this measure. Spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Monday evening that it had “decided to adapt the wording of this measure in the bill”.

“The article in the bill provides for the extension of the health pass to shopping centres whose surface area exceeds a threshold which will be defined by decree,” he said. The government has proposed the requirement be limited to shopping centres with a surface area of more than 20,000m2.

The court also informed the executive that the planned €45,000 fine for business failing to check visitors’ health passes properly would be disproportionate.

Attal announced that the fines would be reduced to €1,500 for an individual and €9,000 for a legal entity in the first instance. Sanctions rise to a year in prison and a fine of €9,000 euros for individuals in the event of four infringements, with businesses facing a €45,000 fine.

But Attal clarified that fines would not be imposed until after an unspecified ‘run-in’ period.

The Council of State backed a mandatory self-isolation period of 10 days for anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 – but “recommends expressly specifying […] that any checks cannot take place at night”.

Attal later said no compulsory isolation controls will be imposed between 11pm until 8am. 

The court also suggested including an article stating that the isolation period “ceases to apply before the end of the 10-day period if a new test shows that those concerned are no longer positive” for Covid-19.

The bill will be debated in the National Assembly on Wednesday, and in the Senate on Thursday and Friday.

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Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

The UK is set to scrap all Covid-19 travel restrictions in what the government described as a "landmark moment".

Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

Testing is no longer required for vaccinated travellers, but the UK government has announced that it will scrap all Covid-19 travel rules on Friday, March 18th.

“As one of the first major economies to remove all its remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions, this is a landmark moment for passengers and the travel and aviation sector,” said the Government in a press release. 

From 4am on March 18th:

  • Passengers going to the UK will no longer be required to fill out a Passenger Locator Form before travel;
  • Passengers who are not vaccinated will not be required to take a pre-departure Covid test, or a Day 2 test following arrival. Fully vaccinated travellers are already exempt from having to do this;
  • Hotel quarantine for travellers coming from ‘red list’ countries, of which there are currently none, will also be scrapped by the end of the month. 

“We will continue monitoring and tracking potential new variants, and keep a reserve of measures which can be rapidly deployed if needed to keep us safe,” said UK Health Minister Sajid Javid. 

The UK has lifted all Covid-related rules including mask rules and mandatory self-isolation if you test positive for Covid.

Some European countries still have Covid restrictions in place for unvaccinated people coming from the UK. 

Until March 18th

Until the new rules come into effect, all travellers are required to fill out a passenger locator form. 

Unvaccinated travellers are also required to take pre-departure test and a test on or before Day 2 following their arrival. 

The UK border officers will recognise proof of vaccination provided with an EU Covid Certificate.

For the UK “fully vaccinated” means 14 days after your final dose of a EMA/FDA or Swiss approved vaccine (Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson). 

After a period of confusion, the UK government says that it will accept mixed doses administered in the EU (eg one dose of AstraZeneca and one of Pfizer).

However people who have only had a single dose after previously recovering from Covid – which is standard practice in some European countries – are not accepted as vaccinated by the UK.