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What changes as France eases Covid restrictions?

Wednesday, February 2nd, marked the beginning of a two-step process of easing some of France's current Covid-related restrictions on daily life. Here's what changed and also a reminder of the rules that remain in place.

A man sits at his lap top
Rules on remote working are eased from Wednesday. Photo: Chris Delmas/AFP

Wednesday February 2nd marked the first stage of the lifting of some of France’s remaining Covid rules. Other restrictions remain in place until February 16th, while certain rules will stay “until further notice”.

Wednesday, February 2nd

Masks – An end to face mask requirements in outdoor spaces – including in ski lifts and in the queues for ski lifts. They will still be required in all indoor places and public transport, while local authorities can impose extra mask requirements if necessary. So if authorities in ski resorts feel the need to reimpose the outdoor mask rule for cable cars or queues they can do so.

Gatherings – An end to limits on the size of gatherings or crowds (currently set at 2,000 indoors or 5,000 outdoors) meaning large events like Nice carnival can again take place, while sporting events can take place in front of full crowds once again.

READ ALSO What you need to know about watching sport in France

Remote working – End of compulsory télétravail (remote working) for three days a week. It remains recommended for those who can to work at least part of the week remotely, but this now returns to being a matter for employees and employers to decide between them.

And this is nothing to do with Covid, but February 2nd is also the festival of La Chandeleur in France, so you can celebrate your newfound freedom with a lovely crêpe.

February 16th

This is the second stage of restrictions being lifted.

  • People will again be allowed to eat in cinemas and sports grounds, as well as on trains and planes. This had been banned in order to ensure that people remained masked in indoor spaces
  • Cafés and bars will not longer be limited to table service only
  • Concerts and music gigs can once again take place
  • Nightclubs will reopen and the ban on dancing in bars is lifted

Travel rules

Rules around travel in and out of France have their own timetable and are not part of the government’s calendar, as they depend not only on the situation in France but also the health situation in other countries.

Unvaccinated travellers from countries including the UK, USA, Canada and Australia are still banned from entering France unless their journey is essential and most non-EU arrivals also require a negative Covid test in order to enter the country.

Travel rules are regularly reviewed however – you can read the latest on upcoming changes HERE.

Rules that remain in place

The following rules have no set end date, and are in place until the health situation shows a sustained improvement.

Masks – must be worn in all public indoor spaces as well as on public transport. There are no exemptions to mask use and you risk a €135 fine if you are not wearing a mask correctly

Vaccine pass – the vaccine pass is required to enter a wide range of venues including bars, cafés, restaurants, ski lifts, cinemas, theatres, tourist sites, gyms, leisure centres and long-distance transport. It requires proof of full vaccination – a negative Covid test is no longer accepted – and may also require boosters – full details HERE

The health minister has said that the vaccine pass could be scrapped ‘by July’ if the health situation permits.

Schools protocols – schools have regularly-reviewed Covid protocols in place including testing, mask rules and changes to the use of canteens and play areas in order to minimise mixing.

Self-isolation – if you test positive for Covid you are required to self-isolate – full details HERE

Barrier gestures – this is a recommendation not a rule so you can’t actually be fined for giving someone a hearty handshake or a peck on the cheek, but is still recommended to keep these gestures to a minimum and practice physical distancing where possible.

Member comments

  1. None of this makes sense anymore, with such high Omicron numbers and the vaccine having VERY limited effect/ if any on it with breakthrough infections obvious- why any restrictions?The vaxxed can go to a concert in the thousands inc being in the famous ‘mosh pit’, but the unvaccinated can’t get a coffee on an outside terrace. It’s punishment for not being coerced – enough is enough France- you are being vindictive Macron, but then we knew you we like that with your ‘piss off the unvaxxed’ rhetoric.

  2. The travel bans and restrictions no longer make sense. Omicron has shown that even triple vaccinated people can get it and travel restrictions – especially to UK – haven’t stopped it’s spread. During January daily new case numbers in France outstripped UK by a considerable margin so imposing continued restrictions on travel from UK seems absurd.

  3. The vaccines, especially when boosted, are VERY EFFECTIVE (and exceptionally safe). The chance of fully-vaccinated boosted individual getting infected is minor, IF infected anyways the chance of a serious case is extremely minor, and IF that very unlikely case does happen to be serious (very very unlikely), the chances of ending up in ICU are close to non-existent.

    The contrast with a un-vaccinated, or not-boosted, individual is stark. Orders of magnitude-scale difference.

    President Macron didn’t go far enough with the “piss off morons” statement. Anti-scientific nutcases are almost all (and frequently ALL) of the Covid-cases in ICU. The ICUs are full with teh stooopids, blocking access to ICU facilities for those which genuine, involuntary, problems.

    The vaccines do not provide everyone with perfect protection, but NAME ONE VACCINE which does! That “reasoning”, that because “there are breakthrough cases so there’s no point in getting vaccined” is unconvincing. It uses the “reasoning” that “since it’s not prefect it’s useless”, which means there’s no point in wearing a seatbelt, or having a parachute when skydiving, or eating food (you might choke), or using stairs (you can fall), or indeed doing anything… Whatever it is, it might go wrong, and is therefore useless.

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Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

A resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Europe, this time driven by new, fast-spreading Omicron subvariants, is once again threatening to disrupt people's summer plans.

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

Several Western European nations have recently recorded their highest daily case numbers in months, due in part to Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

The increase in cases has spurred calls for increased vigilance across a continent that has relaxed most if not all coronavirus restrictions.

The first resurgence came in May in Portugal, where BA.5 propelled a wave that hit almost 30,000 cases a day at the beginning of June. That wave has since started to subside, however.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

Italy recorded more than 62,700 cases on Tuesday, nearly doubling the number from the previous week, the health ministry said. 

Germany meanwhile reported more than 122,000 cases on Tuesday. 

France recorded over 95,000 cases on Tuesday, its highest daily number since late April, representing a 45-percent increase in just a week.

Austria this Wednesday recorded more than 10,000 for the first time since April.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Cases have also surged in Britain, where there has been a seven-fold increase in Omicron reinfection, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS blamed the rise on the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, but also said Covid fell to the sixth most common cause of death in May, accounting for 3.3 percent of all deaths in England and Wales.

BA.5 ‘taking over’

Mircea Sofonea, an epidemiologist at the University of Montpellier, said Covid’s European summer wave could be explained by two factors.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

One is declining immunity, because “the protection conferred by an infection or a vaccine dose decreases in time,” he told AFP.

The other came down to the new subvariants BA.4 and particularly BA.5, which are spreading more quickly because they appear to be both more contagious and better able to escape immunity.

Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity unit at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said BA.5 was “taking over” because it is 10 percent more contagious than BA.2.

“We are faced with a continuous evolution of the virus, which encounters people who already have antibodies — because they have been previously infected or vaccinated — and then must find a selective advantage to be able to sneak in,” he said.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in France

But are the new subvariants more severe?

“Based on limited data, there is no evidence of BA.4 and BA.5 being associated with increased infection severity compared to the circulating variants BA.1 and BA.2,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said last week.

But rising cases can result in increasing hospitalisations and deaths, the ECDC warned.

Could masks be making a comeback over summer? (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Alain Fischer, who coordinates France’s pandemic vaccine strategy, warned that the country’s hospitalisations had begun to rise, which would likely lead to more intensive care admissions and eventually more deaths.

However, in Germany, virologist Klaus Stohr told the ZDF channel that “nothing dramatic will happen in the intensive care units in hospitals”.

Return of the mask? 

The ECDC called on European countries to “remain vigilant” by maintaining testing and surveillance systems.

“It is expected that additional booster doses will be needed for those groups most at risk of severe disease, in anticipation of future waves,” it added.

Faced with rising cases, last week Italy’s government chose to extend a requirement to wear medical grade FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30.

“I want to continue to recommend protecting yourself by getting a second booster shot,” said Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who recently tested positive for Covid.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to ‘entire population’

Fischer said France had “clearly insufficient vaccination rates” and that a second booster shot was needed.

Germany’s government is waiting on expert advice on June 30 to decide whether to reimpose mandatory mask-wearing rules indoors.

The chairman of the World Medical Association, German doctor Frank Ulrich Montgomery, has recommended a “toolbox” against the Covid wave that includes mask-wearing, vaccination and limiting the number of contacts.