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COVID-19 RULES

EXPLAINED: What Covid restrictions remain in place in France?

France has ended the requirement for the vaccine pass and relaxed mask rules in many areas, but some restrictions remain. If you're planning a trip to France, this is what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: What Covid restrictions remain in place in France?
From Monday, the vaccine pass will no longer be required to visit bars or cafés in France. Photo by THOMAS COEX / AFP

France suspended its vaccine pass on March 14th, after requiring a pass in various forms since the summer of 2021.

Bars, cafés, restaurants, ski lifts, tourist sites, gyms, leisure centres, sports stadiums, cinemas, theatres, nightclubs, concerts, large events and long-distance trains – none of these venues require any kind of pass or QR code to enter.

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Only Ehpad nursing homes, hospitals and medical centres retain the use of the pass and this is the health pass – which means that unvaccinated people can use a recent negative Covid test. Emergency medical care has always been provided with no pass required.

The pass is technically ‘suspended’ rather than scrapped, so it could return if cases spike again. However local authorities do not have the power to impose the use of the vaccine/health pass, so there will be no regional variations on this one. 

Masks – the mask rule has ended for many venues, but there are some exceptions.

It is no longer required in shops, bars, cafés, gyms, leisure centres, workplaces or other indoor venues. The mask requirement for outdoor venues was scrapped earlier in the year.

You must still wear masks, however, on all public transport (including taxis and VTC like Uber) and in all stations, airports and transport interchanges. Failure to wear a mask covering your mouth and nose on public transport can net you a €135 fine.

Masks are also required for patients and visitors in all medical establishments including hospitals and nursing homes.

Private businesses are legally entitled to impose their own conditions of entry, which can include a mask requirement, and local authorities also have the power to impose mask rules if cases spike.

Workplaces – in the workplace, mask-wearing is no longer required (apart from in healthcare settings) and limits on workplace canteens and protocols on ventilation, spacing and hand sanitising have also ended.

As for télétravail (remote working), this “remains in the hands of the employers” said Labour minister Elisabeth Borne. This has been a recommendation rather than a rule, and the government has now ended its recommendation for at least two days a week of remote working, but if people prefer to continue working from home they can discuss it with their employer.

Schools – schools are also covered by the mask rule, so pupils and teachers no longer have to wear masks in class. With a few brief exceptions, masks were compulsory in French schools since May 2020. Schools had returned from the February holidays to a more relaxed health protocol which includes more mixing between classes, the resumption of indoors sports and a less rigorous protocol for children who test positive for Covid.

Vaccine mandate – the mandate making Covid vaccination – including a booster – compulsory for medical staff remains in place.

Travel – as for travel, nothing changes and unvaccinated travellers from certain countries are still barred – click HERE for a full breakdown of the travel rules.

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TOURISM

What to know when visiting France’s lavender fields this summer

Known affectionately as 'blue gold,' France’s lavender fields are a popular tourist attraction every year. Here is what you need to know about visiting them:

What to know when visiting France's lavender fields this summer

Lavender is the “soul of Provence,” the French region where the fields can be found. Like wine, lavender was brought to France around 2,000 years ago by the Romans. The flower is the emblem of ‘Haute Provence’ regional identity, though the fields stretch from just outside of Nice almost all the way up to Valence, and they are not fully exclusive to France.

Even the washerwomen, those whose job it was to clean clothes and linen, were referred to as les lavandières in France. 

The flowers, which can be found mainly in two species in Provence, have several uses – as oils for cooking and bathing, as a perfume for soaps, and even as an antiseptic for healing wounds and scars.

The lavender essential oil that comes from Provence is even an AOP (L’Appellation d’origine protégée) in France. 

When is the best time to see the fields?

Typically, the lavender flowers from around mid-June to early-to-mid August. However, depending on the weather, especially if there is a drought or hotter temperatures, the lavender might flower sooner than normal, which is likely the case for this year.

This is unfortunately also a side effect of climate change, which might be pushing up the lavender flowering season.

Where should I go?

The Valensole plateau is perhaps the most famous place to go for lavender fields. Speckled with several small Provencal towns, the area is beautiful, with a mountainous backdrop in the distance. If you go here, you might also be able to see the sunflower fields too.

Sault is perhaps a bit less known, partially because due to its altitude, the lavender typically flowers a bit later.

It is still a great place to go see the fields, and every year the town hosts a Lavender Festival in August. Walking (or cycling) between the villages (Aurel, Saint-Trinit and Saint-Christol) is very manageable.

This is not too far from the Sénanque Abbey, a medieval 12th century abbey which is surrounded by lavender fields. You might notice some small stone houses called bories in the fields, which were historically used for field workers.

Luberon Valley is another location that comes highly recommended. In the area, there is a regional national park, home to rosé wines, castles (chateaux) and charming villages, like Gordes, a stunning hilltop village.

Here you can also find the Musée de la Lavande, if you are looking to learn more about harvesting, producing and distilling lavender, its industry, and some interesting regional history.

How to get there?

You can take a TGV train to Aix-en-Provence or Avignon, or rent a car. With a car, you can also enjoy the several scenic routes that allow you to see the fields from the roads.

What else is there to do while in the region?

The area is also known for its rosé wine, so you could take the opportunity to go visit some vineyards or spend some time wine-tasting. 

In the summer months, the south of France can get quite warm. If you are looking to go swimming or enjoy the water, the Gorges du Verdon are not too far away. Though a bit of a tourist hotspot, the canyon is a beautiful and a wonderful place for paddling along in a canoe.

If you’re a fan of hiking, you can always go for a (light) hike along the Ochre Trail near Roussillon. Here, there are two marked paths that will take you through sunset-colored red and yellow cliffs in an old quarry.

Words of Wisdom

Unless you have been given express permission, do not pick the lavender, as this is the farmer’s livelihood. You can always buy a bouquet from nearby souvenir shops for your photo shoots! 

Also, stick to the paths that exist to avoid trampling any crops, and of course do not litter in the fields. 

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