Will Britons need a health pass to visit France from June 9?
International travellers will be able to enter France with a 'health pass,' President Macron said, but who is affected and what health pass?
French President Emmanuel Macron has said that a 'health pass' will be made available for people in June, including for tourists arriving in the country, and will be in either paper or digital format Pic: Anna Shvets / Pexels
International tourists will be able to enter France from June 9 using a “health pass”, President Emmanuel Macron announced as part of a four-date, detailed plan aimed at ending restrictions related to Covid-19 in France.
The president said that from June 9, a ‘health pass’ could be used to allow people to access large events attended by up to 5,000 people, such as festivals, sports events or exhibitions.
See our easy-look guide to France’s four-step plan to ease restrictions below.
A ‘health pass’ will also be used to allow foreign tourists to enter France, Mr Macron said.
What we know about the pass
A national French pass will be available in paper format or through France’s track and trace TousAntiCovid application that will allow people to store proof of a Covid-19 vaccination or proof of a negative test dated within the past 48 hours.
The plan is for the application to later also store proof of immunity to Covid-19, such as the results of a serology test. It is not yet known if this will allow people to access large events.
The pass will not be used to prevent people accessing places that are considered part of daily life, such as restaurants, Mr Macron said.
“The health pass will never be a right of access that differentiates people. It should not be compulsory for access to everyday places such as restaurants, theatres and cinemas, or for visiting friends.
“However, in places where crowds gather, such as stadiums, festivals, fairs or exhibitions, it would be absurd not to use it.”
The president said a debate on the pass must still take place in parliament but that he sees it as “an additional tool to ensure the protection of people in France”.
How will the pass relate to travel?
France is currently trialling a travel health pass for flights between Orly Airport in Paris and Corsica. This trial is set to be extended shortly to the French overseas territories and some other EU countries.
These trials allow passengers to store proof of a negative Covid-19 PCR test on their smartphone through the French TousAntiCovid application. Within the app, there is a “carnet”, where passengers can upload their negative test result by scanning a QR code.
Passengers can also now upload vaccination certificates to the application.
Vaccination certificates in France all now have a QR code, which allows the document to be scanned and stored on the TousAntiCovid application.
Anyone who has been vaccinated previously and who has not received a certificate with a QR code will have to wait until mid-May to be able to register their certificate on the app. This will be done through France’s health insurance agency Ameli.fr.
There is a free helpline to help people manage this: 0 800 08 71 48. It is open seven days a week from 09:00 to 20:00
Later, it may be possible to upload serological certificates showing they have immunity to Covid-19 to the app, France’s digital sector minister Cédric O said in an interview with Franceinfo.
This system is voluntary and passengers can present individual negative PCR test results if they prefer.
It is thought that the “health pass” that Mr Macron mentioned will use this same “carnet”.
Simultaneously, the EU is developing a non-obligatory Covid-19 travel certificate scheme.
The certificates, known as EU COVID-19 certificates, will be available digitally or in paper format and will serve as proof that a person has been vaccinated against Covid-19, has had a recent negative test or recovered recently from Covid-19. They will allow people to travel easily within the EU without encountering extra restrictions, such as quarantines.
They will be free and will be in English and in the issuer’s national language.
The European Parliament and the European Council are still in negotiations over the creation of these certificates. The aim is to have them in place before the summer tourist season.
The technology that France is developing with its TousAntiCovid Carnet is part of the infrastructure that will go into making this EU-wide pass work.
Each EU country will need to set up a system that allows them to generate an EU-approved certificate and verify an EU-approved certificate when scanned.
The EU has said of its pass it should work alongside any initiative set up by the member states, which should also respect the same common legal framework.
France’s digital sector minister Cédric O explained France’s travel pass in an interview with Franceinfo:
“We hope to be able to ensure that things are standardised by June within the European framework, which should make border crossings more fluid.”
What about the UK and other non-EU countries?
It is unclear how any intended travel pass, be it France’s or the EU's, will function for people coming from outside the EU.
Since March 12, people coming from eight non-EU countries, including the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Israel have not needed to give an essential reason for entering France.
This means that they are free to travel to France, providing they follow other restrictions such as taking PCR tests, and their country allows foreign travel.
The UK is expected to open up international travel on May 17. This means that from that date people in the UK will be free to travel to France for a holiday and to visit second homes.
The French government has not provided any details on how a tourist coming to France could obtain one of France’s health passes.
The EU, for its part, is looking into making its pass compatible with non-EU countries.
Under the proposals for the EU certificates, a non-EU national could request a certificate from a member state to which he or she is travelling if they can provide the necessary information - proof of a vaccination, negative test or immunity.
Johannes Bahrke, EU Commission spokesman on digital innovation, told The Connexion that the EU is also looking into partnerships with non-EU countries.
“We are working to make sure that the certificates are compatible with systems in countries outside the EU and are putting in place a system for the recognition of third-country certificates of comparable security.”
The UK is using two Covid-19 vaccines - those of AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech - which are both approved for use within the EU. This could make it easier for the EU and the UK to create a travel pass partnership.
The UK government has stated that it is discussing the idea of a “vaccine passport”, but there are no concrete details.