Travel, border controls: Five Q&As about France’s new Covid bill

We look at what would be required if ‘travel certificate’ rules are applied, masks in hospitals and more

There are very few Covid rules in place in France currently
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The French parliament has passed a bill setting out what Covid measures will remain in place from August 1 after weeks of debates .

The bill ends the possibility of lockdowns, curfews or health passes being reintroduced but it does give the government the option to bring in a requirement for travellers to present a negative Covid test result to enter France in certain circumstances.

We answer five questions about what is allowed and not allowed under the new bill.

Why are lockdowns and curfews no longer possible?

The state of health emergency that was declared in 2020 and prolonged several times will come to an end on July 31.

This status gave the government the possibility of introducing extreme measures such as lockdowns or curfews – measures that would normally be considered an illegal constraint on people’s freedoms but can be used in emergency situations, such as during a pandemic.

As it is set to end, the government loses the possibility of re-introducing these measures.

What about health passes and vaccine passes?

The possibility of introducing health or vaccine passes to enter public places in France also ends from July 31.

The government wanted to retain the possibility to use health passes for international travel until March 31 next year but did not win support for this in Parliament.

Instead, the bill introduces the possibility of the government imposing a certificat sanitaire de voyage on travellers.

Read more: Five million more people in France offered extra Covid booster

What is the certificat sanitaire de voyage?

It is a fancy way of saying a negative Covid test. If a particularly dangerous variant of Covid appears, the prime minister, Élisabeth Borne, will be able to introduce this “certificate” by decree.

If it is brought in, it will mean that all travellers to France, regardless of their vaccination status, nationality, or country they are coming from, will have to show proof of a negative test to enter.

Details, such as the type of test or how long in advance of travel it must be taken have not been outlined.

This measure, if brought in, will apply to all travellers aged 12 and over.

The government maintains the possibility of introducing this measure until March 31, 2023.

Read more: MPs pass amended bill to allow France to impose Covid border checks

Are masks still mandatory in hospitals, care homes and other health facilities?

From August 1, the government will no longer be able to impose this requirement on people.

Read more: French Court overturns decision to reinstate masks on Nice transport

However, individual medical facilities, such as hospitals, care homes, GP practices, etc., will still be able to set their own rules on visitors or patients wearing masks.

It is therefore likely that many hospitals and care homes will maintain mask-wearing rules

Will unvaccinated healthcare workers be allowed to return to work?

Healthcare workers who are not fully vaccinated against Covid have been banned from working since October 2021.

In October, 15,000 healthcare workers were suspended, today, around 3600 are still prohibited from working due to this rule.

This measure has been controversial since its introduction, and the debate about reintegrating these workers has also been heated, both in parliament and the public sphere.

The new Covid bill opens up the possibility of unvaccinated health professionals being allowed to return to work, although not immediately.

It will be up to France’s Haute Autorité de santé (HAS) to decide if the Covid health situation is safe enough for them to be brought back to work.

The HAS can either choose to make an assessment itself or be asked to assess the situation by the health ministry or other political or health authorities.

The number of daily Covid cases, hospitalisations, admittances to intensive care units and deaths from Covid are all dropping. However with around 70,000 new cases per day still it is not thought that the HAS will support bringing unvaccinated staff back to work in the short-term.

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