France could scrap Covid vaccine pass before July, minister says

French Health Minister Olivier Véran has announced that the Covid vaccine pass may be scrapped before July and possibly even sooner, if the overall health situation in the country is under control.

French Health Minister Olivier Véran
French Health Minister Olivier Veran, pictured here in parliament, has announced a possible loosening of Covid restrictions. (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)

Véran made a number of announcements regarding the country’s Covid policy on Thursday. 

In a long interview on BFMTV, he suggested that the health pass could be scrapped before the beginning of July. This is currently the date that the law states that it is supposed to remain in place until. 

This may come as a relief – particularly to tourists without a booster dose who want to visit France over the summer. 

“It is probable that the end will come before July, unless there is bad news,” he said.

“If we can get rid of the vaccine pass before, we will,” he said. 

“When medical procedures are no longer being delayed in our country [because of Covid], if there is not a new variant in circulation, the usefulness of the pass will be discussed and we can get rid of it. That is the essential condition.”

Many hospitals in France have had to postpone medical treatments due to the influx of Covid patients. 

“We have had to push back a lot of surgery. There are hundreds of patients waiting for an operation,” one hospital director told The Local in January. 

Other announcements

The Health Minister said that obligatory indoor mask wearing, which currently applies even in spaces where the vaccine pass is required, could be scrapped in the spring “if the epidemic continues on its course and Omicron cases fall.”

On Wednesday, France brought an end to face mask requirements in outdoor spaces – including in ski lifts and in the queues for ski lifts. They are currently still 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.

That same day, France also scrapped limits on the size of gatherings or crowds (which had been 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.

It also issued in the 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.

Véran said that half of all French people had contracted Covid at some point since the start of the pandemic in 2020. 

Upcoming changes

If you are over 18, you are currently given seven months between having the second dose and getting the booster in order to keep the vaccine pass valid, but on February 15th the gap falls to four months. You are eligible for a booster shot three months after getting the second dose. Full details on the time limits HERE.

France plans to relax a number of other Covid measures on February 16th. 

  • 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

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Where in France do you still need a face mask?

In France, masks will no longer be required on indoor transport as of Monday, May 16th. Here are rules and recommendations that are still in place:

Where in France do you still need a face mask?

Members of the public in France have been asked to wear face masks for the most part of two years, at times even outside in the street.

Since March 14th, 2022, the facial coverings have no longer been mandatory in most establishments such as shops, and as of Monday, May 16th, it will no longer be mandatory on indoor public transport. 

As of May 16th, you will therefore no longer be required to wear a mask in the following transports:

  • Buses and coaches
  • Subways and streetcars
  • RER and TER
  • TGV and interregional lines
  • Taxis

Regarding airplanes whether or not you must wear a mask is a bit more complicated.

On Wednesday, May 11th, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announced that from May 16th onward it would no longer be required to wear a mask in airports and on board aircraft in the European Union. However, Germany has stated that it does not have the intention of lifting its requirement of wearing a mask on its airlines – this would include the Lufthansa airline. Thus, it will be necessary for passengers to still very to rules each airline has in place, which could be the case when travelling to a country that still has indoor mask requirements in place.

EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky specified that vulnerable people should continue to wear masks, and that “a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, to reassure those seated nearby.”

Masks still obligatory in medical settings

However, it will still be mandatory for caregivers, patients and visitors in health care facilities, specifically including hospitals, pharmacies, medical laboratories, retirement homes, and establishments for the disabled. 

For people who are vulnerable either due to their age or their status as immunocompromised, wearing a mask will continue to be recommended, though not required, particularly for enclosed spaces and in large gatherings.

Masks are also still recommended for people who test positive, people who might have come in contact with Covid-19, symptomatic people and healthcare professionals.

Will masks come back?

It is possible. French Health Minister Olivier Véran does not exclude the return of mandatory mask-wearing, should the health situation require it.

What are the other Covid-19 restrictions that remain in place?

The primary restriction that has not changed is the French government’s regulation for testing positive: If you are unvaccinated and test positive, isolation is still required for 10 days, if you are vaccinated, this requirement is seven days. Isolation can be reduced from 10 to 7 days or from 7 to 5 days if a negative covid test is performed, and symptoms are no longer present.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What Covid restrictions remain in place in France?

The French Health Ministry still recommends following sanitary measures such as: wearing a mask in places where it is still mandatory, hand washing, regular ventilation of rooms, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, and using a single-use handkerchief (tissue).