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Six questions on France’s new anti-Covid measures answered

What are the rules for New Year’s Eve and January events, health passes, and eating and drinking on public transport?

Among the new rules is a ban on onboard eating and drinking on public transport and long-distance travel, in a bid to discourage people from removing their mask Pic: Zigres / Shutterstock

We answer six questions on France’s new anti-Covid measures – including rules for public transport, home working and January events.

Prime Minister Jean Castex announced a series of new rules on Monday evening (December 27), some starting this week and others next week. More details have now been confirmed and we give answers to six questions below.

Read more: France announces 11 new anti-Covid measures

What are the rules for private parties on New Year’s Eve? 

Unlike last year, there is no curfew in place for private parties on December 31-January 1, apart from in some local areas such as Strasbourg (Bas-Rhin, Grand Est). 

Yet, fireworks and the consumption of alcohol in public have been banned. All public New Year and January ceremonies have been cancelled.

Has eating and drinking on public transport really been totally banned?

Yes, the government is set to impose this rule from January 3. The aim is to avoid people removing their face masks.

The measure applies to long-distance transport (domestic flights, TGVs, Intercités, night trains and cross-country coaches) and local transport (metro, buses, trams). It also applies to cinemas, theatres and sports centres.

Airline Air France said it is “awaiting an official decree from the government” before adapting or stopping its onboard food service.

The ban on long-distance eating and drinking has sparked criticism from some. 

One passenger at the Gare Saint-Charles in Marseille told FranceInfo: "It doesn't make sense not to be able to drink water on the TGV because it's really a very long time. I don't really see what impact this could have on the pandemic we are experiencing."

He said that he would consider breaking the rule if needed. He said: “I'll take a few seconds to drink a little water under my mask to hydrate myself because it's vital. Who knew it would become so rock and roll to drink water on the train?"

Another passenger said: “I think it’s a nonsense rule. I invite them to see what it’s like to wear a mask for three hours and 20 minutes without a drink for a dry throat. It’s going a bit far. Vaccinations yes, continuing to restrict freedom, no.” 

Another passenger said: “This is going too far, and I don’t see the point.”

Yet, one passenger was more in favour. He said: “You can never be too careful, especially when cases are soaring. I think it’s important to take several precautions, even when you’re sitting on the train, and continue to be vigilant about wearing a mask.”

One man said that he would “accept and suffer” the rule, but “hope it gets better”. However, he added that getting vaccinations but still “continuing to need restrictions anyway” was “starting to get tiresome”.

Booster jab timing is changing but how long does it take for my health pass to activate after my jab? 

First set at five months and then four, you are now eligible (from yesterday December 28) to have your booster dose three months after your second dose (or first dose if you have had Covid in the past 6 months). 

Booster jabs have been integrated into the health pass and are an obligatory element in order to main the pass.

However, it appears you have seven months and two days [after your second dose] to get a Covid booster in order to maintain your health pass.

The official government website service public states: "As of 15 January 2022, all people aged 18 and over will need to have received a booster dose no more than 7 months after their last Covid injection or infection in order to receive a valid health pass"

The Assurance Maladie simulator has also been updated to reflect the fact people can have a booster now three months after their second dose (previously this was set at five and then four months) and also shows that people have up to seven months and two days to get a booster from the date of their last injection, before losing their pass.

This information was confirmed by the Direction générale de la santé (DGS) when contacted by Midi Libre.

"The expiry date of the vaccination certificate remains the same, i.e. 7 months after the 2nd dose - or 1st dose for people who have had the covid and benefited from a complete single-dose scheme", the DGS told Midi Libre.

Your health pass should activate immediately after you have received your booster dose, if you get it before January 15 - this is the date when all adults must have had a booster jab in order to be able to continue using their health pass.

If you are set to get your pass very close to the date, the pass will remain valid for an extra week, to ensure you are covered throughout. This is not the case for jabs given after January 15.

Will health pass checks continue on public transport?

Yes. Mr Castex said that the checks so far have been insufficient, and they will now be stepped up. SNCF has increased its checks since mid-December, but it has still been criticised as non-systematic.

Yet, the health pass will still only be required for long-distance journeys such as inter-regional travel (domestic flights, TGVs, Intercités, night trains, and cross-country coaches). It will not be needed for the metro, RERs, city buses or TER trains.

Punishments for false health passes will also be increased, with fines rising to €1,000 from the previous €135. Sanctions for the creation or sale of a fake pass will rise to five years in prison and a €75,000 fine.

Mr Castex said: “This is a lot more serious than simply breaking the law, it is a deliberate act of putting others in danger.”

Do I have to work from home in January? 

Yes, if at all possible for your job.

From January 3 for at least three weeks, the government will make it mandatory to work at least three days a week [and ideally four] from home for all companies and all workers for which it is possible, said Work Minister Elisabeth Borne.

The government is said to be discussing how to enforce this, including the suggestion of a fining system in place for businesses that do not comply.

Ms Borne said that she wanted “to put in place more persuasive and faster administrative sanctions” to encourage the measure.

Can I attend an event or concert I have booked for January? 

If the event takes place before January 15, the current rules apply and you will need a valid health pass.

However, you are advised to check with organisers to ensure it has not been postponed or cancelled due to the new capacity limits put in place. 

These are 2,000 people for indoor events and 5,000 for outdoor.

However, some sites such as theme parks are not concerned with the new capacity limits. The Astérix park in Oise and Disneyland Paris have both said that they are not aware of any new rules being imposed on them regarding this issue.

It is not yet clear if theme parks will need to apply the new rules when it comes to indoor shows and restaurants.

If the event takes place on January 15 or later, you will also need to have had your booster jab [dependent on when you had your second jab]. This has applied to the over 65s since mid December.

This will also hold true for the proposed vaccination pass, which is set to replace the health pass, if it is approved and in use from January 15.

If the vaccine pass is brought in only fully vaccinated people will be able to access ‘restricted’ health pass areas, such as restaurants.

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