Paris — France is in a fourth wave of coronavirus infections and is still scrambling to get the population vaccinated. With the number of new cases soaring, the French will now have to present a "COVID pass" if they want any kind of social life.
Prime Minister Jean Castex confirmed on Wednesday that the country's new COVID Certificate would now be required for any leisure activity where more than 50 people are gathered. It must be presented for entry to museums, cinemas and swimming pools, as well as festivals, theme parks and concerts.
The pass confirms that the holder is either fully vaccinated or has recently tested negative forwith a PCR or antigen test.
From next month, the passes will also be mandatory for entry to bars, cafés, restaurants, and shopping malls. Children under 12 are exempt, and it will not be required at schools.
The national measures are coming into force as some regions reimpose restrictions locally to fight soaring infection rates, particularly in coastal resort areas during this vacation season. Officials blame travel and the highly contagious Delta variant for the new surge in cases, which the prime minister has called a fourth wave.
Health Minister Olivier Véran said the Delta variant now accounts for 96% of new cases in France.
The Charente-Maritime region next to Bordeaux saw the highest rise in infections, with a massive 766% jump last week over the week before.
The region around the Mediterranean city of Perpignan, on the border with Spain, has been under new restrictions since last Sunday because of the high number of new infections there. Bars and restaurants — which only fully re-opened last month — were closed again. Police chiefs in several other areas have been authorized to bring in new restrictions if the situation warrants it.
The COVID pass exists in paper and digital versions and contains the holder's Vaccination Certificate, confirming they are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. It can also be used by people who are not fully vaccinated to show a negative PCR or antigen test, or proof of having recovered from COVID-19 with antibodies remaining.
After a slow start, it is estimated that 42.5% of the population has now been fully vaccinated.
When President Emmanuel Macron announced the new measures on July 12, almost 1 million people signed up online to be vaccinated.
The pass will also be used for travel at home and abroad, as it also serves as a. Vacationers traveling by plane, train or crossing EU borders will be required to show it.
For foreign travelers wishing to visit France, the rules have tightened again.
People who are fully vaccinated can travel to France, whether they're coming from a country in the Green, Orange or Red zones, which are determined by the government, based on infection rates and other data.
Non-EU residents need to present proof of vaccination and sign a form declaring they are symptom-free at the time of travel. France, like the rest of the EU, accepts only four vaccines: Pfizer/Comirnaty, Moderna, AstraZeneca/Vaxzevria, and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen.
The U.S. is a Green zone country, thanks to the high percentage of vaccinations. However, travelers who have not been fully vaccinated must provide proof of a negative PCR or antigen test no older than 72 hours, or proof of recent recovery from COVID. This includes air, sea, and land travelers. There is no quarantine requirement.