Visitors now need a special COVID pass to ride up the Eiffel Tower or visit French museums or movie theaters, the first step in a new campaign against what the government calls a “stratospheric” rise in delta variant infections.
As the new rule came into effect Wednesday, tourists who came to the Paris landmark unprepared lined up for quick virus tests at the site. To get the COVID pass, people must show they are either fully vaccinated, have a negative virus test, or proof they recently recovered from an infection.
“The world is facing a new wave, and we must act,” Prime Minister Jean Castex said.
The solution, he said Wednesday on TF1 television, is “vaccination, vaccination, vaccination,” urging his compatriots to sign up for injections to avoid new lockdowns. Of France’s 18,000 positive cases recorded Tuesday, he said 96 percent involved people who were not vaccinated.
At the Eiffel Tower, masked workers scanned QR codes on digital health passes or checked printed vaccine or test certificates. The measures went into effect July 21 at cultural and tourist sites, following a government decree.
Johnny Nielsen, a Danish tourist traveling with his wife and two children, said, “In Denmark, you need the pass everywhere.” So, while he questioned the usefulness of the French rules, he said that didn’t make them reconsider their travel plans.
The Eiffel Tower reopened July 16 after nine months of pandemic closures and renovations. The “Iron Lady” of Paris was ordered shut in October as France battled its second surge of the COVID pandemic. The tower remained shut for renovations even after most of France’s major tourist draws reopened last month.
The number of daily visitors to the tower will be limited to 10,000 instead of 25,000.
France reopened to more international tourists this summer, but the rules vary depending on which country they are coming from. On June 18, the country opened to all Americans, whether they are vaccinated or not, the same day that the European Council added the U.S. to its list of countries approved for entry, reports Sara Lieberman for AFAR.
According to the latest regulations, vaccinated leisure travelers from the U.S. can enter France with no additional public health requirements (such as COVID testing) or quarantine. Unvaccinated leisure travelers from the U.S. can enter France as long as they present a negative PCR or antigen COVID test from within 72 hours prior to their flight. Unvaccinated children traveling from the U.S. are allowed to enter France, but those age 11 and older will have to show a negative test.
Meanwhile, President Emmanuel Macron wants to expand the COVID pass requirement to all French restaurants and many other areas of public life, as well as requiring that all health workers get a jab. A bill that would allow those changes is under debate at the lower house of parliament Wednesday.
The government wants to rush it through as soon as possible, but the bill has prompted resistance in some quarters. More than 100,000 people protested the measures around France over the weekend, and the prime minister said Wednesday the government will seek approval from the Constitutional Court, which will also take time.
Already the government had to delay plans to require teenagers to use the passes starting next month, amid criticism from parents, restaurant owners, and others. The government wants the pass to apply to everyone age 12 and over and will launch vaccination campaigns in middle schools and high schools starting in September, Castex said.
France’s daily infections dropped sharply in the spring but have shot up again over the past two weeks. Some regions are reimposing virus restrictions. The government is worried that pressure will grow on hospitals again in the coming weeks.
France has registered more than 111,000 virus-related deaths. Overall, 46 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.
This story was originally published on July 16, 2021, and has been updated to include current information.