Happy New Year! As 2022 kicks off, we take a look at what’s changed over the Christmas holidays and what’s new in France in January. Here are the French news stories you need to know about this week.
1. France’s Covid Regulations Tighten
The fifth wave of Covid-19 is sweeping through France at lightning speed, and just last week, Health Minister Olivier Veran announced that Omicron is now the main variant in France. The country also recorded its highest number of positive Covid cases per day to date (more than 200,000) over Christmas – a number likely fuelled by the steep increase in testing, as the government urged everyone to get tested before meeting family and friends over the holiday period.
While the government insists that a lockdown or curfew is still not on the cards, increasingly tight health measures have been announced over the last week to tackle this new wave.
Here’s a round-up of the key changes, as of yesterday (January 3rd):
- Masks are now mandatory for everyone over the age of six in all indoor spaces (including health pass venues), on all public transport, at all markets (indoor and outdoor), within primary and secondary schools (students and teachers), and outside in all town and city centres.
- Remote working (télétravail) is compulsory “for all activities that allow it” for a minimum of three days a week. However, workplaces will remain open.
- Bars, restaurants, ski resorts, and cultural venues will remain open, but nightclubs will stay closed until at least January 24th.
- Boosters vaccines are now available to French residents three months after the date of their final vaccine. For the moment, you still have up to seven months (after the date of your final vaccine) to receive your booster before your Health Pass is deactivated. From February, this will be reduced to four months.
- Police continue to crack down on fake Health Passes, and fines have increased to €1,000 for anyone caught using one or €750 if you are caught lending your Health Pass to someone.
- France’s vaccine programme is now open to all 5 to 11-year-olds. However, for the moment, these vaccines are not mandatory, and a Health Pass is not required for under 12s.
2. Quarantine Requirements for Returning Brits
All this goes hand-in-hand with the tightening of travel regulations between the UK and France, which came into force the week before Christmas. All travellers (both vaccinated and unvaccinated) entering France from the UK, as well as those leaving France for the UK, must now have an essential reason to travel. In practice, this means that unless you are both a British citizen and French resident (or their spouse/child), you are unlikely to be able to travel back and forth between the two countries.
In addition to this, all arrivals from the UK must present a negative Covid test taken a maximum of 24 hours before departure and submit to a 10-day self-isolation period. This quarantine can be lifted by presenting a negative Covid test taken after 48 hours of arrival. See our article on travel between France and the UK for the updated rules.
3. United States is Red-Listed
France has updated its colour-coded traffic light system for travel as of December 30th, with many countries, including Canada and Russia, placed under stricter travel restrictions.
Most notably, the United States has now been placed on France’s Red list. This means that only vaccinated travellers will be able to travel to France without an ‘essential reason’. The rules of travel won’t change for vaccinated travellers, but unvaccinated travellers must have an essential reason to travel and undertake a 10-day quarantine on arrival.
You can find the full details of the changes and the corresponding rules for travel here.
4. Happy Epiphany!
If you live in France and need a break from all the (admittedly rather depressing) news, don’t forget that there’s one final holiday celebration left! This Thursday, January 6th, is the Christian festival of Epiphany. It’s not a public holiday in France; however, it is customary to celebrate with friends, family, and colleagues by tucking into a traditional Galette des Rois (King’s Cake). (Just be sure to follow the government recommendations and make sure everyone gets tested before planning a meet-up).
You’ll find the cakes for sale at supermarkets and bakeries all around the country, and they come in a variety of flavours, most notably frangipane (almond cream) and pomme (apple). Each cake has a tiny figurine known as a fève hidden inside, and it’s tradition for the lucky recipient of the fève to wear the paper crown (supplied with the cake) and – as your French friends will delight in telling you – purchase the cake the following year!
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