News Digest: How Will Covid’s Fifth Wave Affect France’s Christmas Season?



News Digest: How Will Covid’s Fifth Wave Affect France’s Christmas Season?

France is feeling festive this week as ski season kicks off and Christmas markets open up around the country, but with Covid-19 cases rising rapidly, how will this affect the holiday season? Here are the French news stories you need to know about this week.

1. Christmas Markets Open Across France

If you’ve been experiencing France’s cold snap this week, you probably don’t need any reminding that winter is here! Thankfully, the frosty mornings and chilly nights aren’t the only reminder that the holiday season is upon us – this week also marks the opening of France’s Christmas markets. Many of the larger markets, including Strasbourg, Colmar, and Reims, will be opening their stalls this Friday (November 26), and smaller markets around the country are set to open from this weekend onwards. Grab yourself a mug of vin chaud (mulled wine) and join the crowds…

Speaking of crowds, if you do plan to visit any of France’s Christmas markets, be aware that mask-wearing policies (both in and outdoors) will be enforced throughout. Whether or not you will need a Pass Sanitaire (France’s health pass) remains uncertain – current guidelines state that the Health Pass will be required only if the Covid infection rate (taux d’incidence) reaches higher than 200 per 100,000 inhabitants. As of November 19, this figure is 180.33.

2. Ski Season Kicks Off

This week also marks the opening of France’s ski season, a welcome relief for ski resorts that suffered from closures throughout the 2020/2021 season. With this in mind, France’s Tourism Minister has encouraged winter travellers to hit the ski slopes, but there will, of course, be health restrictions in place.

Current regulations include the wearing of masks on all enclosed ski lifts and in queues (but not on open chair lifts), as well as in indoor areas of the resorts. The Health Pass is not currently required to access ski lifts and hotels, although it may well be required by private resorts and it is, of course, still required for entrance to bars, restaurants, and other leisure activities. As with the Christmas markets, this is expected to change if the national Covid infection rate reaches more than 200.

3. Fifth Wave of Covid-19

Covid’s ‘fifth wave’ continues to sweep across France, with the national infection rate increasing a whopping 79.09% from the previous week (as of November 19). However, this does not appear to be translating into a worrying increase in hospitalisations or intensive care patients – a fact which the French government are attributing to the success of the country’s vaccination programme.

As news hits of a new lockdown in Austria and further restrictions in Germany, France does appear to be fairing better than its neighbours, and the French government is not considering a further lockdown or curfew for the time being.

Perhaps a greater worry, especially for those of us hoping to travel to the UK or elsewhere over Christmas, is whether or not further travel restrictions or lockdowns will be put in place. For the moment, we have no news of changes on the rules for travel to France or between France and the UK, but, as always, this is subject to change – we’ll let you know as soon as we know more.

If you live in France and are over 65 or meet other eligibility criteria, you can now book your Covid-19 booster – remember, it will soon be a requirement for accessing France’s Health Pass.

P.S. Happy Holidays!

From all of us at FrenchEntrée, we’d like to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to all of our American and Canadian readers, and Happy Hanukkah to all those who celebrate.

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FrenchEntrée's Digital Editor, Zoë is also a freelance journalist who has written for the Telegraph, HuffPost, and CNN, and a guidebook updater for the Rough Guide to France and Rough Guide to Dordogne & Lot. She lives in the French countryside just outside of Nantes.

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