As is normal at this time of the year, for several weeks temperatures in France have fallen, providing Covid19 greater opportunities to infect more people. Statistics reflect that reality: whereas a one-week moving average of new infections had dropped as far as the lower four thousands as recently as mid-October, this week it has spiked to almost 50,000. Without doubt, some of the increase is also due to the exasperation of many with precautions that are now being observed less rigorously, such as social distancing, mask-wearing and frequent hand-washing.
Alarmed by that trend, the French government has announced the tightening of some restrictions in France: the elderly (those 65 or older) now must have had a third ‘booster’ vaccination against Covid19 to maintain proof of their compliance in their digital Covid19 health passes, which are required for entry to most public areas. Vaccination requirements among younger ages have been further extended, and night clubs have once again been closed. Wherever possible, people are encouraged to work from home, and travellers from severely-impacted countries in Europe are now required to prove that they have tested negative for Covid19 within 24 hours of boarding high speed (TGV) trains in France.
On the positive side, 88.8% of the population of France aged 12 and above has been fully vaccinated, and the rate of infection by Covid19 among that population remains low. Where infections do occur among those vaccinated, the symptoms remain relatively mild. As a result, the rising number of infections has not led to a proportionate number of hospitalisations or admission to intensive care units, even though those numbers have increased to some extent. They are not nearly as high as they were in the first waves of infection in 2020.
Moreover, wider lock-down measures have not been implemented. Dining and drinking establishments remain open, as are museums, concert halls, exhibitions, stores, cinemas, theatres, markets, sporting events and transportation networks. If the mood of France remains on the anxious side, you would never guess that when you enter its myriad establishments teaming with patrons who are enjoying themselves.
Another mitigating factor also appears to be that the vaccinations that have been made appear to provide a distinct degree of protection from new Covid19 infections. This is what explains the fact that most of the recent wave of infection is comprised of persons who have not been vaccinated at all or who are only partially vaccinated. With only 11% of the population left unvaccinated, it is not expected that the pandemic can propagate as virulently as it has done in the past.
Although no-one can be certain, there is a widespread hope among French Covid19 specialists that France will not be obliged to declare a general lock-down to tame the current rising wave of infections. That remains to be seen, as most new infections are of either the delta or omicron variants, which are not as well-studied or understood as other earlier variants. Nevertheless, many anticipate that the peak of the current wave will be reached by mid-January.
Since last June, we have continued to perform tours for our clients, many of whom originate from the United States. Since September, about half of them have been armed with printed vaccination certificates that certify full vaccination with CDC-approved vaccines. The other half had converted their printed vaccination certificates into the French digital vaccination certificate with the QR code. In literally hundreds of places including restaurants, cafés, bistros, brasseries, trains, museums and stores, the US certificates were accepted without the least inconvenience.
If you are planning a trip to France in the new year, it will probably be wise to anticipate an additional requirement of proof of having been vaccinated with a booster shot within the last five months. That is not yet a requirement, but it is plausible that in due time it will be added to the requirements of travellers coming from the US.