After several false starts, we are happy to share good news for those of you traveling to France who have been worried about not having a scannable Covid vaccination certificate. You can now easily convert your US-issued printed CDC certificates into a version that contains a scannable QR code in digital format. This means you will then have the same pass that is carried by most people who reside in France, which gives them access to a wide range of places, including eating and drinking establishments, hotels, museums, concerts, cinemas, shows, stores, enclosed spaces, cultural and sports events, among others. You can also download it into your smart phone, where it can be scanned.
We first learned of the possibility of this development some weeks ago from a client who had booked a tour with us in the Loire Valley in mid-October. He had made his application for the scannable pass some weeks before, but without any result up to that point. We reported his action to another two clients who had booked with us a Four Day Tour of Provence earlier this month, who also promptly applied for the same.
Weeks passed without either client receiving their pass when, a short while ago, both sets of clients received an email from the French office processing their requests, which stated that they were overwhelmed with demand, and that it might be some time until their requests could be processed. It looked like a lost cause, when, on our last day in Provence, one of our two clients received his pass attached to an email. The next day his partner received her pass. And the day after that, both of our October clients reported receiving their digital passes in the same way.
It appears that the office providing this service has been making strides in dealing with a great demand, and it is to be hoped (but not yet known) that future requests may be treated efficiently than up to now. Nevertheless, the sooner you make your application, the better your chance of receiving your pass in time to be able to use it. If, on the other hand, for any reason you have not been issued the digital Covid health pass by the time your plane to France departs, rest assured that your printed CDC pass is still accepted universally in France, up to this moment.
You can make your application for your own digital pass with a scannable QR code at the following website: https://www.demarches-simplifiees.fr/commencer/passe-sanitaire-etrangers?locale=en.
A piece of advice to those of you traveling to France who have obtained your digital Covid pass, and who have downloaded it into their smart phone: make a printed copy of your pass and keep it and your printed CDC vaccination card separately from your phone, preferably at your accommodation in France. This is a precaution that you will find very useful in the event that you lose your phone while traveling in France, for whatever reason. It will enable you to continue your travels in France without any inconvenience, including at cafés, bistros, brasseries and restaurants.
Imagine your dilemma if you face the situation just described, without a back-up solution: what would you then do? Forego visiting many of the places that you came to France to see? Stop eating or drinking in nice bistros, cafés, restaurants or brasseries? Forget about checking into another hotel?
Certainly not! You can go to a pharmacy and have them perform a Covid antigen test, which, hopefully, will show that you are negative for Covid. Most French cities have numerous pharmacies that will perform this test without an appointment anytime from their opening (circa 9 am) until about 6 pm, at the cost of 29 €. You will have the result in a hard, scannable copy within 10 to 30 minutes, and the certificate will be valid for three days. You will need to have such a test performed for re-entry to the US in any case.
One of our recent clients for our Classic Paris Luxury Tour of Champagne had a Spanish companion who entered France with an antigen test, and was in France for two weeks, repeating the test at three-day intervals. That is not our idea of convenience, but it worked for them.
I was in Avignon last week, when I mis-placed my cell phone, which contained my Covid health pass and I did not have a printed copy of it. I had skipped both breakfast and lunch that day, and I was really ready to have dinner when, at a bit after 7 pm, I realized that, because I did not have my pass with me, I would be refused service at any restaurant without the pass.
I rushed to the nearest large pharmacy not far from my hotel, hoping to have the antigen test performed, before their testing for the day shut down, which is generally an hour before they close. The girl at the reception desk was on the phone, sorting out her preferences for where to go for salsa dancing later that night, and she kept me waiting, despite my repeated expressions of “Urgence!” When she finally hung up and heard what I was seeking, she sweetly informed me that the person who performs their antigen tests had left for the day, precisely at the time when I arrived.
Miffed, I asked her what I might do. She suggested that I speak with the guard in front, who could tell me which pharmacy in their neighborhood would be on-duty for late service that night. Some minutes later, I found the guard, but he was in communion with someone on the ever-present and now-cursed phone.
I rushed off, determined to spot another lit green cross, the French insignia that flags a pharmacy that is open for business. I rounded the street corner, and there, only 20 yards away, I was drawn to the lit green cross of Pharmacie Saint Agricol. I mention the name for a purpose. The proprietor was a perfect ile of calm in contrast to my stormy sea of agitation.
After listening to my explanation of what I needed, he asked if I had been vaccinated in France, which I had been. Did I have my social insurance card with me? Habitually, no, but in fact I had stuffed it into my wallet at the last minute, thinking that one never knows when you might need it, especially when you are away from home. He asked me for my card, disappeared in his back office, and re-appeared a few minutes later, proffering a white sheet of paper on which was printed the QR code certifying my Covid vaccination.
My dinner was saved, with no antigen test necessary. I had always heard how France works wonders with its bureaucracy, and here was living proof. The entire Covid vaccination program in France resides within in its enviable national health insurance infrastructure, and every part of it is linked to the card that shows that you are insured.
What could I pay the pharmacy owner for his service? “Nothing,” he replied. How could I thank him enough, beyond the words of gratitude that I repeated over and over? Write a few goods word about his business came his reply. So here they are: bless Pharmacie Saint Agricol at 13, rue St. Agricol in Avignon, just around the corner from the Hotel de Ville: telephone 04 90 85 23 11.
By the way, at this time 81.7% of the population residing in France that is older than 11 years has been fully vaccinated against Covid. The daily average rate of Covid infection has fallen to a bit under 7.5 thousand per day and the percent R is now standing at 0.74 nationally. It is thought by some experts that herd immunity kicks in when we exceed 90% fully vaccinated. This is a bit of an unknown, as well as difficult to achieve, since most of the population that could be compelled to be vaccinated to lead more or less normal lives have already complied. The final few per cent are likely to be difficult to achieve.