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SKIING

Covid health pass: Why UK families need to know rules in French ski resorts

Changes to France's Covid rules mean that family skiing holidays could now become very difficult for those travelling from the UK with older children.

Child mounts a ski lift. New Covid rules in France make it complicated to visit the country for a skiing holiday with young children.
New Covid rules in France make it complicated to visit the country for a skiing holiday with young children. (Photo by RAYMOND ROIG / AFP)

France on Thursday announced a raft of changes to its health rules as it battles with a fifth wave of Covid.

You can read the full list of changes HERE but there are two changes that particularly concern family skiing holidays – the health pass is now compulsory in order to use ski lifts, and those who are not fully vaccinated need to take a Covid test every 24 hours in order to use the health pass.

The health pass is required for everyone over the age of 12, and this is a particular problem for UK families, since most UK teenagers have so far only been offered a single dose of the Covid vaccine – not enough for them to count as ‘fully vaccinated’ under French rules.

Children aged between 12 and 18 therefore have the choice of taking a Covid test every 24 hours – at a cost of up to €22 a time for antigen tests – or avoiding using ski lifts while on holiday.

READ ALSO Covid rules in France’s ski resorts this winter

In France, children over the age of 12 are required to have had two shots of AstraZeneca, Pfizer or Moderna, or a single shot of Johnson & Johnson, to be considered fully vaccinated, the same as the rule for adults.

This is less a problem for French over 12s, of whom 73 percent have received both doses and 80 percent a first dose, while the majority of EU countries are also offering two doses. But in the UK the majority of teenagers are only offered a single dose. 

This means that the only other option for children is to present a negative Covid test. But new rules in France mean that a negative result remains valid for only 24 hours – in other words, children without two doses of Covid vaccine who want to ski must get tested every day of the holiday.

Not only is this an uncomfortable procedure but it is also costly. Visitors to France are typically charged visitors are charged up to €22 for an antigen tests or €44 for a PCR test. Either test type works with the health pass.

READ ALSO France sets 7 month limit on Covid health pass and opens up booster jabs to all

It is not just on the slopes that the health pass in being used in French ski resorts. Bars, restaurants, cafés, play centres and even some hotels also require visitors to be fully vaccinated. 

It is also not worth trying to cheat the system. Not only is it illegal, but it also puts others at danger and could land you a hefty fine. Using someone else’s valid health pass can land you with a maximum penalty of €750 for first offence, while using a fake health pass can result in a maximum fine of €75,000 and five years in prison. 

With Covid cases in France rising at “lighting speed”, the French Prime Minister, Jean Castex, explained that enforcing the use of the health pass in French ski resorts was an important public health measure. 

“It guarantees the safety of skiers,” he told Le Parisien

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STRIKES

France’s pension strikes: What to expect on January 31st

The final day of January marks the second - and almost certainly not the last - day of mass strike action in the ongoing battle between the French government and unions over pension reform. Here's what to expect on January 31st.

France's pension strikes: What to expect on January 31st

Unions have promised the ‘mother of all battles’ against Emmanuel Macron’s plans to reform the French pension system, including raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.

5 minutes to understand French pension reform

However, the action for the moment is mostly concentrated into a series of one-day actions, with the first taking place on January 19th.

The next ‘mass mobilisation’ is scheduled for Tuesday, January 31st. It is supported by all eight French trades union federations, which means that support is likely to be high and disruption severe on certain services.

Workers in essential services such as transport must declare their intention to strike 48 hours in advance, allowing transport operators to produce strike timetables, which are usually released 24 hours in advance. We will update this story as new information is released.

Trains

Rail unions are strongly backing the action – on January 19th, 46 percent of all rail workers walked out, and unions say they expect a similar level of support on January 31st. This would likely lead to a similar level of disruption with around half of high-speed TGV trains cancelled and 9 out of 10 of local TER services. 

International services including Eurostar could also see cancellations or a revised timetable. 

Some unions have filed a provisional strike notice running from 7pm on January 25th to 8am on February 2nd, with the option of a renewable strike after that – however it is not yet known how well supported this action will be. 

City public transport

Workers on Paris’ RATP network also saw high levels of support for the previous strike – with most Metro lines running rush-hour-only services and some closed altogether, while buses ran a severely limited service. The full details of exactly what will be running will be revealed on Monday evening by RATP.

Other cities including Marseille, Nice, Lyon and Nantes will likely see a repeat of severely disrupted bus, tram and Metro services.

Ports

The CGT union representing port and dock workers are also set to walk out on January 31st, but have filed a strike notice running from January 26th. Full details of their action are yet to be clarified.

Schools

The major teaching unions have called for another 24-hour walkout, so some schools are likely to close. The January 19th action saw roughly half of teachers across France walk out.

Ski lifts

The two unions that represent more than 90 percent of workers in ski resorts have called an ‘unlimited’ strike beginning on January 31st. So far Tuesday is the only confirmed strike day, but others could be announced. Strikes in ski resorts generally mainly affect the operation of ski lifts.

Petrol stations

The hardline CGT union has announced extra strike dates for workers at oil refineries, and also threatened blockades. This can result in shortages at petrol stations as supplies of petrol and diesel are blocked from leaving the refineries and reaching filling stations.

Power cuts 

CGT members working in the state electricity sector have also threatened more ‘direct action’ including power cuts to selected towns. This is not a legitimate strike tactic – in fact France’s labour minister says it is “a criminal offence” and will be punished accordingly – but it could happen nevertheless.

On January 19th two towns – one in the greater Paris region and one in northern France – lost power for a couple of hours in what was described as a deliberate cut. The union says it intends to target towns that elected MPs who support the pension reform.

Demos

January 31st will also see another day of marches and demonstrations in towns and cities around France. On January 19th more than 1 million people took to the streets and unions will be hoping for a similar turnout on January 31st. One striking feature of the demos on January 19th was the comparatively large turnout in smaller French towns that usually do not see large demos.

Other strike dates

The above information relates to January 31st only, and services before and after this date are expected to run as normal.

Some unions, however, have declared ‘unlimited’ strikes, so there could be disruptions on these services on other days – these include ski lift operators, truck drivers and oil refinery workers.

It is highly likely that further one-day or multi-day strikes will be announced for February and March, as the pension reform bill comes before parliament, you can keep up to date with out strike calendar HERE.

We will update this article as more information becomes available, and you can also keep up with the latest in our strike section HERE.

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