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France begins requiring COVID-19 health pass in restaurants and on trains

Security officer checking passengers' digital health passes at Paris train station
A security officer checks passengers’ digital health passes at the Gare de Lyon train station in Paris on Monday.
(Adrienne Surprenant / Associated Press)

France took a big step Monday into a post-pandemic future by requiring people to show a QR code proving they have a special health pass before they can enjoy restaurants and cafes or travel across the country.

The measure is part of a government plan to encourage more people to get a COVID-19 vaccination and slow down a surge in infections, as the highly contagious Delta variant now accounts for most cases in France. More than 36 million people in France, or more than 54% of the population, are fully vaccinated.

The special pass is issued to people who are vaccinated against COVID-19, or have proof of a recent recovery from the disease or who have a recent negative test. The measure also applies to tourists visiting the country.

In hospitals, visitors and patients who have appointments are required to have the pass. Exceptions are made for people needing urgent care at the emergency ward.

The pass is now required on high-speed, intercity and night trains, which carry over 400,000 passengers per day in France, Transport Ministry chief Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said Monday. It is also required for long-distance travels by plane or bus.

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“We’re going to enforce massive controls,” Djebbari said.

Clubs, musicians and promoters are all adjusting on the fly to the new surge of COVID-19 infections. Many now require proof of vaccination to attend events.

Paper or digital documents are accepted.

Meanwhile, the Paris St.-Germain soccer club will be allowed a capacity crowd for its first home game of the season against Strasbourg in the French league Saturday. PSG said the Paris prefecture has approved 49,700 fans at Parc des Princes stadium, with spectators expected to show their virus passes.

Polls show that most French support the health pass. But the measure has prompted strong opposition from some people who say it compromises their freedoms by limiting movements and daily activities outside the home.

On Saturday, thousands of demonstrators marched in Paris and other French cities for a fourth consecutive week of protests against the measure.

Italy and France are introducing Europe’s toughest vaccine pass regimes for normal social activities, such as dining indoors at restaurants.

The virus pass has already been in place since last month at cultural and recreational venues, including cinemas, concert halls, sports arenas and theme parks.

The law also requires French healthcare workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 15.


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