Britons hoping to travel to France for a ski holiday this winter have had their plans thrown into chaos after being told they will require a vaccine passport.
Everyone over the age of 12 will now have to provide proof they are double-vaccinated to access the slopes and that their last jab was no more than seven months ago, under plans announced Thursday by health minister Olivier Veran.
That poses multiple issues for British travellers – with children aged under 16 unable to get a vaccination passport and those aged 12-15 only eligible for one jab.
Additionally, boosters are currently only being offered to Britons aged over 40 meaning people in their mid-to-late 30s whose second doses were given in June risk missing out as their passports will ‘expire’ in January.
The new rules, which kick in from December 4, are part of a package designed to stem France’s winter wave of Covid which includes making boosters available to all over-18s and shortening the time between second dose and booster to five months.
Infections and deaths are soaring across Europe, but there are encouraging signs that epidemics in hard-hit Austria and the Netherlands are easing – albeit only after the former went into full lockdown and the latter imposed a night-time curfew.
France will require everyone over the age of 12 to show a vaccine passport in order to access ski slopes from December 4
New rules will cause chaos for Brits, with those under 16 unable to get a Covid passport, those aged 12-15 only eligible for one jab, and those in mid-to-late 30s unable to get boosters
Daily case figures for Austria show that infections largely plateaued in the week between November 18 and 25, beginning after the country locked down its unvaccinated citizens but before it went into full lockdown.
Data shows a similar effect being felt in the Netherlands over the same period of time, coming roughly a week after it imposed a night-time curfew and brought back mandatory face masks on public transport and some indoor spaces.
European leaders have been scrambling to reimpose restrictions in an attempt to curb cases of the virus, but measures between countries have varied widely.
Austria has been among the harshest, shutting down all non-essential shops and making vaccines mandatory for everyone who is eligible to get one.
Others, such as France, Italy and Germany, have cracked down on the unvaccinated – tightening rules around their Covid passports to limit access to public spaces to those who have been jabbed.
France said on Thursday it would make COVID-19 booster shots available to all adults, toughen rules on wearing face masks and ramp up health pass checks as it seeks to curb a fifth wave of infections that risks undermining its economic recovery.
The number of infections is doubling every 11 days in France but officials said there was no need to follow Austria’s example of reimposing a lockdown.
Health Minister Olivier Veran said anyone aged 18 or over would be eligible for booster shots and that the period between full vaccination and the booster jabs would be shortened to five months from six.
In a piece of positive news, cases appear to be levelling off in Austria and the Netherlands after both countries imposed restrictions
Covid cases are hitting all-time highs in many countries in Europe, as leaders rush to reimpose lockdowns and target the unvaccinated with the harshest measures
Brussels is considering harsher measures on travel as the continent suffers through a winter wave of Covid that has caused virus deaths to spike
‘We still have our fate in our hands,’ Veran told a news conference, urging people to respect social distancing rules.
Booster shots are currently available only to over-65s and to those with underlying health issues.
France currently holds about 25 million doses, enough to accelerate the booster campaign, Veran said. Earlier, France’s health regulator (HAS) backed a widening of the campaign.
France reported over 30,000 new infections for a second consecutive day on Wednesday, a sequence unseen since late April.
The seven-day moving average of daily new cases – which evens out reporting irregularities – stands at a three-month high of 21,761 and has almost quadrupled in a month.
Veran said he would ask the HAS and medical ethics committee to examine whether children aged 5 to 11 should be vaccinated. Any programme for such children would not begin before 2022.
Earlier, the EU’s drug regulator approved the use of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID vaccine for 5 to 11-year-olds as Europe fights a spike in infections.
Booster shots will become a requirement for a valid health pass, which is needed in France to enter restaurants, cafes, cinemas and museums, among other public venues, Veran said. The pass shows proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID test.
After Veran’s announcement, vaccination bookings soared, causing medical appointments app Doctolib to freeze. At 1615 GMT, the app gave a waiting time of more than 30 minutes to book a vaccination.
European leaders are relying on vaccinations to combat the new Covid wave, cutting the time required to get booster jabs and restricting the activities of the unjabbed
Covid deaths in Europe hit 1.5million on Thursday amid WHO warnings that another 700,000 people could die before the end of winter