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Why are French people now crossing the border to dine and shop in Switzerland?

People from France are now crossing the border into Switzerland to go shopping and visit restaurants, reversing the long-standing trend of going the other way. Why?

Why are French people now crossing the border to dine and shop in Switzerland?
Why are Swiss cafes near the French border now suddenly much more popular? Photo: Photo by Johan Mouchet on Unsplash

The Covid pandemic has led to a new phenomenon few living in border areas thought they would ever see.

The French have reversed decades upon decades of one-way shopping traffic and are now heading to Switzerland to go shopping and visit restaurants. 

Up until this point, people from Switzerland were far more likely to cross into France to go shopping and even to eat and drink, due to the comparatively low prices and the relative ease of crossing the border. 

What has led to the reversal of the usual practice where the Swiss go shopping in France to save money?

‘Swiss crush’: Shoppers from Switzerland head to France after stores close

It appears the trend has shifted due to France putting in place stricter rules regarding vaccinations as part of the pandemic. 

In France, 11 departments are now requiring the health pass to enter shopping centres, expanding it from restaurants and leisure facilities where it has been required for some time. 

This the case also in Haute-Savoie since Monday, where authorities said they were concerned about “the very worrying health situation”.

The region, which is adjacent to the Lake Geneva area, now has six shopping centres on the mandatory list, with 350 shopping centres on the list in France in total

France’s health pass requires people to be fully vaccinated, have recovered from the virus in the previous six months or have tested negative in the past 72 hours. 

No such measures are in place in Switzerland at the moment for shopping, visiting bars or restaurants, although those visiting nightclubs and larger events will need Switzerland’s Covid certificate, the Swiss version of the ‘pass sanitaire’. 

UPDATED: How to get Switzerland’s Covid-19 health pass

Not only the retailers, but also bars and restaurants on the Swiss side of the border have seen the influx of French customers,

“We now have 30 to 40 percent more customers (since before France changed the rules)”, Arianit Pira, manager of Auberge de Perly in Geneva, told Swiss news outlet RTS on Monday. 

As a thank you, “we should send a bottle to Mr. Macron”, he added. 

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Reader Question: Can I get a third Covid booster shot in France?

As France launches its autumn vaccine campaign, almost half of those eligible for the second booster jab in France have already received it. This has left some wondering whether they could qualify for a third booster, using the new dual-strain vaccines.

Reader Question: Can I get a third Covid booster shot in France?

Question: I’m in my 70s and I had my second booster back in the summer but now I see that the new dual-strain vaccines are available – should I be getting an extra booster with the new type of vaccine?

French health authorities launched the autumn booster campaign on October 3rd includes newly authorised dual-strain vaccines – such as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine adapted to BA.1, the Moderna vaccine adapted to BA.1, and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine adapted to BA.4/5 – which are designed to combat the Omicron variant.

It will be followed by the seasonal flu vaccination campaign in mid October.

READ MORE: When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters this autumn in France

In France, about 6.3 million people have received a second booster dose, “or 41 percent of the eligible population,” said the Directorate General of Health (DGS) to Ouest France.

Currently only those in high risk groups are eligible for a second booster shot, including pregnant women, the elderly those with medical conditions or carers – find the full list here.

As almost half of the eligible population have already received a fourth vaccine, many are wondering whether they will be eligible for a fifth (or third booster) in order to access the new dual-strain vaccine.  

According to Virginie, a representative from HAS – France’s health authority – the organisation “no longer thinks in terms of doses for high-risk people and immunocompromised patients.”

Specifically, the HAS recommends that a new injection be given – and if possible one of the dual-strain vaccines – “regardless of the number of injections received up to now”.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Who qualifies for a second Covid vaccine booster in France?

However, French health authorities specified that the additional booster should “respect the minimum recommended time between two doses.”

“This depends based on your profile – for people aged 80 and over, residents of nursing homes or long-term care units (USLD) and those who are immunocompromised, the wait-time is three months between jabs. For the others, the delay is set at six months.”

For those who have already been infected by Covid-19, the HAS recommends that if you are eligible for a second (or third booster) that the additional dose “is still recommended, with a minimum delay of three months after infection.”