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TRAVEL NEWS

Can tourists use the French health pass without a booster?

France has announced sweeping changes to its Covid vaccine booster programme - making them available to all adults but also making them mandatory to continue using the health pass. So what does this mean for those who have been vaccinated in another country?

The French health pass will soon require booster shots of vaccine.
The French health pass will soon require booster shots of vaccine. Photo: Pascal Pochard Casablanca/AFP

As part of its strategy to hopefully avoid more lockdowns and curfews while battling the fifth wave of Covid cases, France has ramped up its vaccine booster campaign.

Vaccine boosters are now available to all adults in France, from five months after their second dose. But boosters will also be required in order to keep the health pass activated.

From December 15th, health passes for over 65s will be deactivated seven months after the date of the second injection – meaning that people have two months to get the booster jab after becoming eligible.

From January 15th, this will be extended to all over 18s, whose health pass will be deactivated seven months after their second dose.

READ ALSO Calendar: When do French health rules change?

So what does this mean if you’re travelling from a country where you are not yet eligible for a booster?

The Local has asked the French health ministry for clarification on whether anything will change under the new rules, but the regulations at present are:

Vaccinated in the EU/Schengen zone

France is part of the EU digital vaccine programme, which means those vaccinated in an EU or Schengen zone country can use their own domestic pass or vaccination certificate in France, since all QR codes are compatible. 

Most EU countries are offering boosters and in general the policy around vaccines is broadly similar around the bloc. But there are some differences and in this case, as long as your own country counts you as ‘fully vaccinated’ you will be accepted as such in France.

This works the other way around too – for example Switzerland has never used the AstraZeneca vaccine in its own vaccination programme, but people vaccinated with AstraZeneca in France are accepted as ‘fully vaccinated’ in Switzerland, because their French code says they are.

Vaccinated in the UK 

The UK is also offering boosters to priority groups including those with medical conditions and health workers, but if you’re not in a priority group you need to be aged 40 or over to get a booster.

The NHS app is now accepted in France and can also be integrated with the French TousAntiCovid app. NHS certificates for the booster shot did not at first contain QR codes, but the UK government has now announced that all booster shots given in England are now integrated into the NHS app, with Wales set to follow on November 29th. The devolved government of Scotland has not so far made an announcement on this. 

The situation for Britons who have not had a booster seven months after their second dose is not clear at present. It is likely to follow the same rules as those vaccinated in the EU or Schengen zone, but The Local has asked for further clarification on this point.

Vaccinated outside the EU/Schengen zone or UK 

For those vaccinated in other non-EU countries, obtaining the relevant codes from the French health pass has been a difficult process, with four different systems in place since the summer.

The most recent system involves people waiting until arrival in France, and then taking their vaccination certificate to a pharmacy to get the QR code required for the French health pass.

READ ALSO EXPLAINED How visitors from outside the EU can access the French health pass

Countries outside the EU have very different policies on administering booster shots, but the French government still defines ‘fully vaccinated’ for non-EU travellers as the following;

  • Vaccinated with a vaccine accepted by the European Medicines Agency (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson/Janssen)
  • At least 28 days after the single shot Johnson & Johnson/Janssen
  • At least seven days after the second shot of Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca
  • At least seven days after a single shot of Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca in the case of people who have recovered from Covid

Boosters are only required in travel terms for people vaccinated with Sinopharm or SinoVac vaccines, which are not yet approved by the EMA. In this case, people who have those vaccines plus a booster dose of either Pfizer or Moderna are accepted as fully vaccinated seven days after the booster shot.

Children

The booster requirement for the French health pass concerns only over 18s.

Since most countries only began vaccinating children over the summer, the issue of boosters for children has not yet arisen.

If you are travelling with a child over the age of 12, however, be aware that they too require a health pass.

Other options

Unlike some parts of Austria and Germany which have exchanged the health pass for a vaccine pass, the French pass can, for now, still be used with a negative Covid test.

Those who either are not vaccinated or whose home country vaccination certificate will not be accepted for the French pass, can take a Covid test in France and, if negative, use the result to access the benefits of the health pass for 24 hours.

READ ALSO How tourists and visitors can get a Covid test in France

Although the official policy is that only EU/Schengen vaccination certificates are accepted in France, we have heard anecdotal evidence that other certificates, particularly the American CDC card, is accepted by some bars and restaurants.

Changes

Policy in this area can change rapidly. For all the latest, keep an eye on our Travelling to France section.

Member comments

  1. The problem is that I am finding it impossible to get the troisième dose, before my Covid pass is deleted! There needs to be more time before such a thing is put into action. In relation to my vaccination in early July I should be given a bit more leeway … I think I will be lucky to have the 3rd jab at the end of March or April.

    1. I keep hammering away at Doctolib with varying degrees of success. Just reading your note now, I tried again for the second time this morning. All the opportunities are far but still accessible by transit and I just found a handful available this week (2 December on) at a vaccination center in Sarcelles. I love the street location: Route des Refuzniks. 😀

  2. All I can say is this. Get your vaccinations as soon as they become available. It is in your best interest, and more important, in the best interest of the entire community. I have now lost two friends to Covid. Both were adamant — they didn’t “believe in vaccinations”. I am sorry that they are gone, but they made their decisions. I would hope that others would step up and do what is right.

  3. I have a booster in the US. Could you provide information on how to add it to my current double vaccination status on the anti-Covid app?
    All three shots are Pfizer.

  4. We had our vaccinations in the U.K. but a third dose here in France as a booster. The vaccine centre didn’t know how to call this a booster so it 1 of 2 on our pass. Does anyone know how this can be registered here in France as a booster on the Tous antiCovid app?

  5. I went ‘sans rendezvous’ to my local vaccination centre yesterday and got the troisieme. I am one of those who would be de-activated because of age. I suggest you go to one of the big vaccination centres without a Doctolib appointment. They are so keen to get you in the system I doubt you;d be turned away.

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For members

TOURISM

Reader question: Are there private beaches in France?

Amid accusations of racism at fancy seaside resorts and legal controversies surrounding US statesmen, we take a look at the law surrounding private beaches in France.

Reader question: Are there private beaches in France?

Question: I read that all beaches in France are public property, but down here on the Riviera there are a lot of ‘private beaches’ – how do the rules actually work?

In France, everyone has the right to a dip in the ocean, though it might not seem that way when walking through certain areas.

There are 1,500 of these “private beaches” in France – the vast majority of them located on the Côte d’Azur.

They have become a source of controversy recently, after two private beaches in Juan-les-Pins were accused of racism and discrimination following an investigation and video circulated by French media Loopsider. The video (below) shows how a white couples receive different treatment than North African or Black couples.

So what are these ‘private beaches’ and are they even legal in France?

In reality, none of these beachfront hotels, resorts or beach operators actually own that land, as the sea and the beach are considered ‘public maritime’ and are therefore the domain of the French state.

This means that technically there are no private beaches in France, as no one is supposed to be allowed to own the beach, though there are some caveats to that rule.

Since 1986, the State has been able to grant ‘concessions’ to allow for parts of the beach to be temporarily rented. Thus, hotels, resorts or beach operators can request a temporary rental of the beach for a specific period of time – the maximum duration being twelve years, which is renewable. If the local town hall agrees, then the renter will pay a fee (typically between €15,000 and €100,000 per year). 

This might seem like a de facto way of allowing beaches to be privatised, but the few who manage to ‘rent the beach’ are still subject to some constraints. For instance, they are only allowed to occupy the beach for six months of the year (sometimes this can be extended up to eight months with the permission of the town hall, or twelve months in less common circumstances).

At the end of the season, they are required to dismantle their installations, so permanent private structures on the beach are therefore not allowed.

So you might see a waterfront resort, but they do not technically have ownership over the beach.

What about private deckchairs or sun beds next to the water? 

This is another rule that is not always perfectly respected. Legally, any organisation that rents a part of the beach is required to leave a strip of “significant width” along the sea.

This is usually about three to five metres from the high tide mark, where members or the public can walk along the water or bring down their own towels or deck chairs down to the beach.

If a ‘private beach’ has deck chairs or sun-loungers right up against the water, there is a good chance the renting organisation is not following the rules.

Beachfront property

As the public has the right to be able to access the beach, homeowners are not allowed to block passage and can even incur fines for doing so. 

The public must be able to pass through land to get to the beach, and cannot be blocked from the beach in front of a property.

Public access to the beach came into the spotlight due to a controversy surrounding a property of former American presidential candidate and statesman, John Kerry.

Kerry’s family owns a villa in Saint-Briac-sur-Mer in Brittany, and has fought a three-decade legal battle to be able to block the coastal trail on the property, which by French law, should be accessible to the public. 

Despite the family siting potential ‘security threats’ should the beach front path be open to the public, local authorities backed plans to continue allowing public access in 2019.

What about building a waterfront property?

First, keep in mind that building in general in France is a heavily regulated process that requires planning permission.

You will not be able to build within 100 metres of the shoreline. If you buy a pre-existing coastal property, you will need to remember the three-metre rule discussed above and, as the Kerry family discovered, you are not allowed to block public access to the beach. 

For ‘coastal zones’ specifically, there are more strict regulations and most plots of land by the sea are listed as protected natural areas, and therefore are not allowed to be built on.

Can access to the beach ever be forbidden?

Yes, as per the Coastal Law of 1986, local authorities can forbid access to the beach for “security, national defence or environmental protection.” During the Covid lockdowns several local authorities banned access to beaches to avoid illicit partying.

There are also several rules about what you are allowed to do – and not to do – while visiting French beaches, and some of them might surprise you. 

READ MORE: The little-known French beach rule that could net you a €1,500 fine

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