France Covid: An end to the health pass in shopping centres?

Some large shopping centres in France have had their health pass requirement cancelled in court, with the work minister suggesting the general rule would be evaluated in ‘coming days’

5 September 2021
A hand holding a smartphone showing a health pass. France Covid: An end to the health pass in shopping centres?

Some shopping centres in France can no longer require a health pass for entry after the rule was overturned in court Pic: Sylv1rob1 / Shutterstock

Several shopping centres in France no longer require the health pass for entry after the rule was cancelled in court, with the government suggesting the requirement could be relaxed imminently nationwide.

As of August 8, the Covid health pass has been required for entry to shopping centres larger than 20,000m2, and in those where the local prefecture has issued a decree requiring it. 

Prefectures have the power to require the pass if the incidence rate (number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants) in the area has been higher than 200 for a week. 

But now, several of these decrees have been challenged in court on the basis that they are not legally valid, with the departments of Yvelines, Essonne and Hauts-de-Seine (Ile-de-France) having now had the rule annulled in court.

The court found that the restrictions in question did “not allow for adequate access to enable customers without a pass to buy essential goods and services”.

Under the rules, all shopping centres must still permit people to enter without a health pass if they are buying essential items, or accessing a transport station that is located within the centre.

In contrast, the Paris administrative court rejected petitions from September 1 for a slew of shopping centres within the capital, and the health pass remains mandatory in the shopping centres concerned.  

Lawyer Yoann Sibille, who filed the case in Paris and several other departments, said: "The [Parisian] administrative court rejected the petitions filed, and shockingly said that there was no rush to make a ruling.” 

Mr Sibile told France 3: "The basic problem surrounding the legality of the prefectural decree was not dealt with at all by the court.” 

  

Drop in the incidence rate in Nouvelle-Aquitaine 

Three shopping centres in the southwest of France are now calling on Mr Sibile to challenge decrees in the region, as the rate of incidence drops. 

Case numbers in Nouvelle-Aquitaine were at 106.4 per 100,000 on September 2, well below the 200 threshold for the rule.

Shopping centres in the area, including near Bordeaux and Gironde, are now hoping to lift the restrictions, especially as the prefectural decree in a shopping centre in Landes was based on the ‘active’ circulation of the Delta variant. 

A decision on this is expected on Monday, September 6 at the administrative court in Pau. 

However, In south-eastern France, the courts decided on Friday, September 3 to maintain the obligation to show a health pass in shopping centres larger than 20,000m2 in the Côte d'Azur.

This includes supermarkets such as Carrefour, Auchan, and Géant Casino in Nice, Antibes,  Saint-Laurent du Var, and Mandelieu (Alpes-Maritimes). 

The rule is still not uniform; other centres in the area have escaped the restrictions, such as the Polygone Riviera in Cagnes-sur-Mer. Despite having 70,000m2 of floor space, it does not require a pass because it is considered to be "several commercial units in one", reported Var-Matin

This is despite the incidence rate in Alpes-Maritimes rising to 283.9 as of September 4, according to the latest figures from health body Santé Publique France.  

In some cases, local prefectures have themselves decided to suspend the rule without waiting for a court decision. 

This is the case in Corse-du-Sud, because, authorities said, "the health situation has improved overall" during the last three weeks, with the incidence rate now at 156.4 (below the 200 per 100,000 inhabitants threshold).

Yet, the prefecture told 20 Minutes that it is remaining cautious, as the incidence rate is still very high in the south of the department.

Businesses suffering; government considers relaxing rules

It comes after Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux, president of French employers’ union le Medef, called on Prime Minister Jean Castex to suspend the requirement to show a health pass in all shopping centres concerned.

He explained to BFMTV that the loss of turnover had reached “30 to 40%” in the centres concerned, that that the rule was “hurting businesses a lot”.

In response, Work Minister Elisabeth Borne, told France Inter on Saturday, September 4 that the government would examine the situation "in the coming days". 

She said: "We can see that the health situation is improving. If this is confirmed, we will be able to relax the rules.”

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