The French government ended several major mask mandates and vaccine passport regulations.
In an announcement on March 14, France said the country’s current COVID-19 inflection rate and the number of hospitalizations had declined significantly enough to warrant ending major restrictions.
The government lifted mask requirements in schools, businesses, and offices. Masks are still required at hospitals and on public transportation.
The government also said proof of vaccination is no longer a requirement for entry into restaurants, bars, theaters, nightclubs, and other public places. Vaccination status checks are also no longer required for interregional transportation.
The policy change also means tourists are not subject to COVID-19 restrictions. Prior to the change, unvaccinated travelers could only enter France for essential reasons.
After the proof of vaccination requirements went into effect in January, French people have taken to the streets in protest.
Officials from the Interior Ministry said at least 34 people had been arrested after more than 105,000 people took part in an anti-vaccine-passes demonstration in Paris on Jan. 8. At least 10 police officers were injured in clashes with protestors, per the BBC.
Demonstrators contended that the regulations constituted unequal treatment and violated citizens’ freedoms.
Since the first vaccinations were offered in December of 2020, France has distributed more than 153 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines according to data collected by the World Health Organization.
“More than 92% of people age 12 and older are fully vaccinated in France, which has a population of 67 million,” reports AP News.
The French government has prompted the remaining unvaccinated population to get a COVID-19 by working with an American company to offer Novavax, a non-mRNA vaccine. The fifth vaccine to be authorized by the national government, Novavax was initially distributed to vaccination centers for administration in mid-March. It will also be available in pharmacies and in doctor’s offices by March 26.
Also known as Nuvaxovid, the vaccine “involves injecting a piece of the virus – the spike protein – into the patient” using more traditional technologies than mRNA, reports RFI.
The alternative vaccine is available for anyone over the age of 18.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in France peaked in January when over 2.4 million cases were reported. Cases have steadily declined, with just over 278,000 cases confirmed as of March 7.
The head of France’s Scientific Council, Jean-Francois Delfraissy, told RTL radio “The pandemic isn’t over yet.”
He advised at-risk individuals to continue to wear masks.
The government policy change regarding mask mandates and vaccination passports come less than a month before France’s upcoming April presidential elections.