Covid-19: France resumes indoor dining, launches health pass as next phase of easing lockdown begins

·6-min read

France enters its third and penultimate phase of easing Covid-19 restrictions on Wednesday as indicators continue to show the country's rate of infections subsiding. FRANCE 24 looks at the changes in store for residents, businesses and visitors to France from June 9.

Curfew rolled back, indoor dining returns

Starting Wednesday, the nationwide curfew in effect across France will be pushed back from 9pm to 11pm.

That rollback is just one boon in store for restaurateurs starting on June 9. After a seven-month ban on indoor dining, cafés and restaurants across the country will be permitted to welcome customers inside, albeit at half the establishment's seating capacity and with tables limited to a maximum of six people.

Outdoor terraces can open to full capacity, up from the 50 percent allowed since May 19, although patio dining is also limited to tables of six.

Shops will be allowed to accommodate twice as many customers, with capacity bumped up to one patron per four square metres (from 8m² previously).

Gatherings of more than 10 people, with the exception of tour groups, are still prohibited. Face masks remain required, even outdoors, until at least June 30.

Health pass

France's new health pass also comes into effect on June 9, enabling access to activities with large crowds. The pass, available digitally through the "Tous Anti-Covid" virus tracing app or in paper form, provides proof that an individual age 11 and up has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19; has tested positive for Covid-19 more than 15 days ago and within the last six months (with the resulting natural antibodies reducing the risk of reinfection); or has tested negative with a recent Covid-19 PCR test.

The health pass will allow access to gatherings of more than 1,000 people, including indoor and outdoor sporting events, cultural venues, casinos, festivals, trade shows and funfairs.

Museums, cinemas, festivals

Museums can welcome double the number of visitors than they were allowed to when they reopened at the start of phase two on May 19, with the same one person per 4m² capacity as shops.

Cinemas, theatres and circus big tops can let in up to 65 percent of their seating capacity, up from 35 percent. The new rules allow up to 5,000 spectators in a single audience, although the health pass will be required above the 1,000 mark. The same goes for outdoor festivals.

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Zoos are also allowed to open their gates to visitors at 65 percent capacity, up from 50 percent last month. Casinos can open at half-capacity, up from 35 percent, with the health pass required for venues with more than 1,000 people on site.

Trade shows and funfairs can reopen to the public starting Wednesday, at 50 percent of their total capacity.

New travel rules

Starting Wednesday, European Union residents will no longer need a compelling reason – known in France as a motif impérieux – to travel to France. Only non-vaccinated EU residents and visitors from seven other countries deemed "green" on the colour-coded map that France released on Friday will need to produce a recent negative Covid-19 antigen or PCR test. The seven green-lighted countries are Australia, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea.

Travel to and from a much wider swath of countries categorised for now as "orange" – the United Kingdom, North America, and almost all of Asia and Africa – will remain subject to heavier restrictions. Even vaccinated individuals travelling from "orange" countries to France will be required to provide a recent negative Covid-19 test.

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Non-vaccinated travellers from "orange" countries, meanwhile, can only travel to France for a pressing reason (such as a medical or family emergency). They will also need to self-quarantine for seven days upon arrival.

Under the updated guidelines, all travellers (vaccinated or not) from 16 countries classified as "red" will need to provide negative Covid-19 tests and to quarantine for seven to 10 days upon arrival due to concern over surging variants. Those countries include India, South Africa, Turkey and much of South America, including Brazil.

Remote work

Guidelines recommending employees work from home whenever possible will be eased across France from June 9. The country's Covid-19 protocol had, since late October, compelled firms to allow employees to work remotely 100 percent of the workweek whenever telework was possible. The protocol was loosened somewhat in January to allow workers one day a week in the office should they feel a need to return.

As of Wednesday, employers are asked, in consultation with local labour unions, to set a minimum number of days a week for remote work whenever possible. That measure is aimed at staving off a mass return to offices across the country, instead of a gradual one, as the pandemic persists. For example, the French state has set a minimum of three days a week of remote work for public sector employees.

Workplace canteens will also see an easing of restrictions as of Wednesday. The new guidelines allow employees to eat together with six to a table, at tables spaced two metres apart, unless separated by a physical barrier.

The office party makes its return to the workplace social calendar, conditioned on a "strict respect" of social-distancing measures, face masks and ventilation precautions. It is recommended that the get-togethers in professional settings be consigned to outdoor spaces with no more than 25 people taking part. Such "convivial moments", as the new government protocol calls them, had been barred since October.

Ceremonies and religious venues

Head-scratching over limited guest lists is also set to ease from Wednesday, with more people to be allowed at wedding and civil union ceremonies. Those attending can fill one of every two seats, an increase from the one in three permitted since May 19. Seventy-five people can attend a funeral ceremony from Wednesday, up from the 50 decreed in May.

Sport

Indoor gyms and covered swimming pools reopen to the general public on June 9 at 50 percent capacity, except for contact sports. Spectators at indoor sporting venues can attend at 65 percent capacity, up to 5,000 seated spectators. The new health pass will be required for crowds over 1,000.

The new guidelines allow outdoor sports, including contact sports, with up to 25 participants from Wednesday. The previous limit was 10 participants and contact sports were banned.

Outdoor amateur sporting competitions can now be held with up to 500 participants. Stadiums can welcome as many as 5,000 seated spectators for events, at 65 percent of a venue's capacity (up from 1,000 and 35 percent, respectively).

What comes next?

France's fourth and final phase of easing restrictions is slated to begin June 30. That date is set to see the curfew – first imposed in the autumn during the second Covid-19 wave – lifted entirely.

Pandemic permitting, Phase Four could also see capacity limits lifted in many public spaces, although amateur outdoor sporting events will remain limited to 2,500 participants. Night clubs remain closed pending government decisions expected later this month. Open-air festivals with audiences that aren't seated will need to respect a limit of one festivalgoer per 4m² of available space.

The health pass will still be required for indoor and outdoor events with more than 1,000 in attendance. From July 1, France will also recognise a pan-European health pass authorising travel within the EU.

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