British families looking to book a French skiing holiday face chaos amid imminent new rules insisting all over-12s need to be double jabbed to hit the slopes.
Teenagers as well as adults who are not fully vaccinated could be forced to sit out if France sees 200 cases per 100,000 people, at which point its ‘health pass’ becomes mandatory on ski lifts.
The rate is currently at 189, but like much of the rest of Europe, it is rising rapidly, soaring from just 129 only a week ago.
Austria – another popular skiing destination – has already imposed a harsh lockdown while strict rules are also being enforced in a number of other countries on the continent.
The French Government said new Covid containment measures would be announced on Thursday, but ruled out a full lockdown.
A number of British families have already expressed their frustration at the prospect of the tough new rules.
Katja Gaskell, who regularly skis with her partner and three children – aged 14, 11 and six – spoke of her frustration at the prospect of tough new rules
Covid rules in France
Current Covid rules in France dictate that face masks are mandatory in all enclosed public spaces, though it is no longer a requirement to do so in all outdoor public spaces.
There are some exceptions to this, however, with face coverings still needed in gatherings, queues, markets, and stadiums.
Wearing masks on public transport is compulsory for all users aged 11 and over, with fines for those who are not compliant.
Masks are also compulsory in taxis and private hire vehicles without a plexiglass screen.
Furthermore, people aged 12 and over will need to demonstrate their Covid-19 status through the ‘health pass’ in order to access services and venues.
This includes leisure facilities (bars, restaurants, museums, cinemas), hospitals, retirement homes and modes of transport such as long distance train and bus journeys and planes.
If the case rate rises above 200 per 100,000 as many anticipate, this will also apply to ski lifts, meaning unvaccinated teenagers will be affected.
Katja Gaskell, who regularly skis with her partner and three children – aged 14, 11 and six – told the Telegraph: ‘Our eldest has been vaccinated but as per UK rules, he has only received one shot. This leaves him in vaccine limbo in France.
‘We’re hoping that if testing is required that the resort will ensure cost-effective and quick local testing. Does it add another level of stress? Definitely.’
Meanwhile, Rebecca Miles, is concerned not only over the possibility of increased testing for her five-year-old daughter, but also whether they’ll be able to set off for their multi-generational trip to Champagny en Vanoise at all.
‘There’s a niggle in the back of my mind that it’ll be cancelled for some reason – France’s rates will rocket, they’ll close the border again, and we’ll be left disappointed,’ she said.
French Government spokesman Gabriel Attal insisted on Wednesday that ministers want to avoid major curbs on public life, preferring stricter social distancing, speeding up its vaccination booster campaign and tightening rules on using health passes.
‘We must protect the French people by building on what we have, to save the end-of-year festivities and get through the winter as well as possible,’ he told a news conference.
France’s health pass – which allows entry to cafes, restaurants, museums, cinemas and other public places for people who are vaccinated or have a recent negative Covid test – is a key reason why infection rates in France are lower than in neighboring countries, Attal said.
Introduced this summer, the pass led to a spike in new vaccinations and the government could boost its efficiency by increasing control over its use.
Attal declined to specify what measures may be announced on Thursday, but the government is expected to follow health regulator HAS’ advice to extend a third dose of the vaccine to everyone over the age of 40.
So far the third shot is only available for people over 65 and the vulnerable, but from December 1 also for people over 50. The government could also boost home working.
Rebecca Miles, is concerned not only over the possibility of increased testing for her five-year-old daughter, but also whether they’ll be able to set off for their multi-generational trip to Champagny en Vanoise at all
Attal said that despite new measures, the fifth wave of the epidemic was likely to get worse in coming days.
While the government expects to see a significant increase in pressure on hospitals in coming weeks, it does not expect they will be submerged by an influx of patients as vaccination drastically reduces the risk of serious symptoms.
‘We no longer see a link, as we saw during the first three waves, between the number of infections and the number of hospitalisations,’ he said.
On Tuesday, the seven-day moving average of new cases rose above 20,000 for the first time since Aug. 24 and the number of Covid patients in intensive care rose to 1,455.
For a similar number of new cases in August, the number of people in ICUs stood at 2,200.
During the third wave, when average new cases last exceeded 20,000 in early May, the number of Covid patients was over 5,500.