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French MPs and senators agree on new potential Covid border checks

The parliamentary committee introduced an article enabling the use of a ‘travel health certificate’ for people arriving in France if a new, dangerous variant emerged

A parliamentary committee has introduced an article enabling the reintroduction of Covid travel checks at French borders if a new, dangerous variant emerges Pic: zuzana caprnkova / Shutterstock

A joint parliamentary committee has approved a government bill which would extend the possibility of imposing Covid-related checks at French borders beyond its planned end date of July 31. 

This comes after MPs rejected this section of the proposed law, which aims to prolong the use of some measures related to the management of Covid cases, as France experiences its seventh wave of the virus. 

Read more: Coronavirus: Daily updates on the situation in France

However, senators then passed the entire bill on its first reading, reintroducing the possibility of extending the government’s power to reintroduce the Covid checks if a new variant of concern were to emerge.

Read more: Senate votes to keep ability to impose Covid pass at French borders
Read more: French MPs block maintaining Covid pass for international travellers

The commission mixte paritaire (joint committee), made up of seven MPs and seven senators from different political groups, has agreed that if a new, dangerous Covid variant emerged, the government could require international travellers to present a negative test result before their journey begins. 

This would be called a certificat sanitaire de voyage (travel health certificate), and would not be exactly the same as the current health pass which is used for international travel. 

Health passes can either come in the form of proof of full vaccination, a recovery certificate from the past six months or a negative Covid test. The documents required by France depend on the country the traveller is arriving from, as well as their vaccination status.

If a new variant of concern emerged, the certificat sanitaire de voyage – which would not impose different rules on vaccinated and unvaccinated people – would be put in place for one month. 

After this time, a parliamentary vote would be required if the government wished to extend it.

The bill also contains an article introducing the possibility of extending 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. 

The new version will now be put to the Assemblée nationale for another vote on Monday (July 25), and then to the Senate on Tuesday. If both houses pass it, the bill will be officially adopted. 

Allowing unvaccinated healthcare workers to return to their jobs? 

Senators also introduced the possibility of allowing unvaccinated healthcare workers to return to work if health service quality regulator Haute autorité de Santé (HAS) granted its approval.

This would create a “path to reintegration” for these workers, who since September 15, 2021, must be fully vaccinated to go to work.

The joint parliamentary committee accepted this change, but HAS has expressed its opposition saying it is “in favour” of maintaining obligatory vaccination for these professions, considering the “availability of safe and effective vaccines”. 

It said that its decision was based on “uncertainties regarding the evolution of the epidemic in the coming months,” and the “efficacy of a complete course of vaccination in reducing the risk of being infected and passing on the disease”.

HAS added that being vaccinated was especially important amid the current “new epidemic wave caused by the BA.5 subvariant of Omicron”. 

Health Minister François Braun has said that the government will “follow the advice of the scientists”, and so is currently opposed to reintegrating unvaccinated healthcare staff into the workplace.

There are thought to be between 2,000 and 3,000 unvaccinated – and therefore suspended – healthcare workers in France.

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