[Article updated on June 27 at 12:00 with further information on the possibility of reintroducing obligatory mask-wearing on public transport.]
The French government is preparing a draft bill to allow it to keep the Covid health pass in place for international travel in and out of France until March 31, 2023.
A health pass is not a document in of itself but is either proof of being fully vaccinated against Covid, proof of having recovered from it recently (a positive test) or proof of a negative Covid test.
International arrivals to France aged 12 and over currently have to present proof of either of these documents. People planning to travel from France to an amber-listed country must also show proof of being fully vaccinated. This measure was set to end on July 31.
In practice, travel companies or airlines are often no longer asking to see these documents.
See more about France’s Covid entry rules here.
The government has also written up plans to extend the use of France’s Covid test database SI-DEP and its system of alerting the close contacts of people with Covid until March 31, 2023.
Additionally, there are plans to create a new committee to monitor and anticipate health risks that would be attached to the Ministry of Health.
The exact remit of this committee remains unknown but its name suggests a similar role to the Conseil scientifique Covid-19, which was set up in March 2020 to offer scientific reports and insights into the spread of the virus.
The plans are still in the pre-draft bill stage but its contents were reported by French news site Atlantico and confirmed by the French health ministry to the news wire service AFP.
The draft text does not mention a more general prolongation of the state of health emergency beyond July 31. This classification can be used to allow the government to impose measures such as curfews and lockdowns. It also does not specify plans to reintroduce health or vaccine passes for use inside France.
The text instead allows for the extension of just a few specific measures, such as the health pass for international travellers.
This is in line with comments made by government spokeswoman Olivia Grégoire on June 8:
“We are not going to present a text that will extend all the existing crisis measures. We are not talking about the vaccination pass, the state of emergency, etc.
“What is important for us is to ensure that we are in a position to intervene if necessary, with the implementation of containment measures if the situation were to evolve or even degenerate after July 31.”
Masks on public transport
Professor Alain Fischer, who leads the government's Conseil d'orientation de la stratégie vaccinale, has said that the possibility of reintroducing mask-wearing requirements on public transport is "being seriously discussed" during a France 2 interview last week.
He added that it was "probably sensible [...] certainly for vulnerable people and probably for the whole population, because it is a collective protective measure and by making the small effort to wear a mask, we contribute to protecting at-risk people."
Epidemiologist Pascal Crépey shared this view, commenting: "In packed trains, the risk of finding oneself in the presence of infected people is heightened. It would be a good idea for the population to wear a mask, mainly to protect the most vulnerable and avoid wide-scale infections."
Among the first tests for new parliament
The government intends to propose the legislation as a projet de loi. This is a draft bill written and put to parliament by the government, rather than the more common method by which MPs submit bills, known as a proposition de loi.
President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance Ensemble! failed to win an absolute majority in the Assemblée nationale in elections earlier this month, meaning there is no guarantee that the government will be able to push this bill through parliament.
Government-supporting MPs could face a difficult challenge winning support from the far-right Rassemblement National with its 89 MPs who are likely to be against any measures which they see as curtailing people’s freedom.
The left-wing alliance Nupes, with their 131 MPs, may also give the government a hard time as it takes on the role of being a major opposition power.
Covid cases in France rising
France is now averaging over 50,000 new Covid cases per day, up from under 20,000 at the beginning of June.
Infectologist Anne-Claude Crémieux recently told FranceInfo: “Here, we are clearly seeing an epidemic restart linked to the arrival of the new variants from the Omicron family, called BA4 and BA5. These variants spread more quickly.”
Professor Crémieux said that patients who are suffering the worst are older people who have had their third vaccination over nine months ago [and therefore are generally less immune to the virus and its mutations]. She said that so far, the numbers in intensive care are not rising.
People aged 60 and over have, in particular, been urged to get their additional Covid vaccine booster dose.
Prof Fischer said: "Despite the cumulative effect of injections and infections, the level of protection is not optimal. In addition, the vaccines remain safe: there are no side effects with a fourth dose. It is simple: we need those of the 8.5 million people in France who are eligible who have not yet had the booster to go to their pharmacy or GP."
Read our guide here on how to book a Covid vaccination appointment: How to book your Covid-19 vaccination appointment in France.
The government has also set up a dedicated phone number to help people aged 80 and over book a Covid vaccination appointment: 0 800 730 957.
Professor Mahmoud Zureik, professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Versailles-Saint-Quentin (Yvelines), told Le Monde: "The current rebound in the epidemic refutes the idea that the virus has become seasonal, at least this year.
"We might have thought that booster shots could wait until the autumn and that they would be coupled with the flu vaccination campaign. [But it appears that] we must rely on the immune status of each individual and on the distance from the last booster received."
Le nombre de prises de RDV de vaccination #Covid19 initiées depuis https://t.co/EgjZ488Yl2 sont en hausse, elles ont été 4 fois plus importantes hier par rapport à un jour habituel @ViteMaDose_off pic.twitter.com/6ARDFKfWC2— GRZ (@GuillaumeRozier) June 24, 2022