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COVID-19: ESSENTIAL INFO

France introduces health pass for cafés, bars and trains

People in France will now need to show a health pass to enjoy usually routine activities such as sipping a coffee in a café or travelling on an intercity train, in a plan championed by President Emmanuel Macron to squeeze Covid-19 infections and encourage vaccination.

France introduces health pass for cafés, bars and trains
Photo: Sebastian Solom Gomis/AFP

The government is pressing ahead with the extension of an already-existing health pass for venues including cafés, restaurants and intercity travel, despite four weekends of angry protests that saw almost a quarter of a million rally nationwide on Saturday.

Macron, who has expressed exasperation with the protests, hopes that the plan will help ramp up vaccinations and quell the fourth wave of coronavirus in France in a strategy similar to that of EU neighbours such as Italy and Germany.

The health pass is generated in a QR code either by a full course of vaccinations, a recent negative virus test or a recovery from Covid-19. The government expects a one-week grace period for consumers and businesses to get used to the new rules.

READ ALSO EXPLAINED How France’s health pass works from Monday

“The pass and the vaccination drive should help us avoid new curfews and lockdowns,” Health Minister Olivier Véran told Le Parisien daily.

Véran announced slight modifications in the rules – notably that tests could be 72 hours old and not 48, and also that self-tests carried out under medical supervision would be allowed.

But he emphasised there would be no going back on rules which will remain in place until at least November, lamenting the attention paid to those who are “anti-vax, anti-science and anti-state” over those who respected distancing and had been vaccinated.

“I am willing to hear the fears, do everything to reassure. But there comes a time when enough is enough,” he said.

The numbers in hospital are still way off previous highs seen in the pandemic, but there were 1,510 people in intensive care with Covid-19 on Saturday compared with 1,099 just one week ago.

Macron hopes the plan will further accelerate the vaccination drive in France where over 55 percent are now double-jabbed. Almost seven million new bookings were made for first jabs since the plans were outlined.

Cases have been rising fastest in Corsica and the Mediterranean coast, which are seeing a summer influx of holidaymakers.

But the biggest concern is over France’s overseas territories in the Indian Ocean and Caribbean, where new lockdowns have been ordered amid a slow vaccine uptake.

Opponents argue the new rules encroach on civil liberties in a country where individual freedom is prized.

About 237,000 people protested across France on Saturday, including 17,000 in Paris, the interior ministry said, exceeding the 204,000 recorded last weekend – numbers that are extremely unusual for protests at the height of the summer break.

Recent polls though have shown that a clear majority of French back the pass, even including the extension to cafes and restaurants.

The pass has already been required since July 21st to visit cultural venues such as cinemas, theatres and museums. Its extension was approved by France’s Constitutional Council on Thursday.

It will be needed both in the indoor and outdoor areas of restaurants but will not be required on metro systems and suburban transport.

Macron, who faces re-election next year, has in recent days repeatedly taken to the social media platform TikTok, popular among young people, to get his message across.

“Get vaccinated. Get vaccinated. Get vaccinated,” Macron said in the latest video Friday.

“It’s a question of being a good citizen… our freedom is worth nothing if we infect our friends, neighbours or grandparents. To be free is to be responsible.”

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TRAVEL NEWS

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.

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