What effect have Covid passports had in France and how do they compare?

After early protests, Covid passes are barely controversial in France anymore, says Europe Editor James Mates

To anyone watching from Paris, the row consuming Boris Johnson’s government over the (very limited) introduction of Covid passports is pretty baffling. 

They’ve had them here since June. They worked. And - so far at least – the land of Liberté Egalité  and Fraternité has not been transformed into Nazi Germany.

Not only are the French sticking with what they call the Passe Sanitaire, they are extending it. 

From Wednesday, anyone aged over-65 who has not had their booster jab will lose their right to enter restaurants, bars, cinemas or travel on planes and trains. 

Within a month the same new rules will apply to anyone whose second jab was more than seven months ago. 

Compared to the very mild restrictions being imposed in the UK, this sounds positively draconian.

Of course it has been controversial, of course the early days were marked by regular demonstrations against the new rules, but much of that controversy has faded as their effectiveness has become apparent. 

France went from well below the European average in first and second jabs, to near the top.  The booster programme was in the doldrums until the recent amendments to the rules were announced – now more than 95% of the over-65s have had their third dose.

And France is far from being the only country to impose these requirements.  Denmark was the first, Italy, Germany and others have followed suit. 

Life in Europe involves keeping your QR code easy to hand on your phone because you are going to be asked for it many times a day.

For those who must do the checking, the burden is relatively small – an easily downloadable app on a smartphone or tablet scans a QR code and immediately declares it valid or otherwise. 

The penalties for non-compliance fall heaviest on businesses. 

In France the fine for an individual found in an indoor setting without a Passe Sanitaire is €135, but a whopping €1,500 for the owner of the establishment.

Some feel it has damaged business as they turn away potential - unvaccinated – customers.  But against that, the knowledge that everyone around them will be fully jabbed may be encouraging some to go out who would otherwise stay home.

The debate here will continue, but the direction of travel on making life tricky for the unvaccinated is unlikely to change.

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