Tourists need COVID-19 pass to go up the Eiffel Tower

- Alex Turnbull and Angela Charlton

PARIS – Visitors now need a special COVID-19 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, unprepared tourists lined up for quick virus tests at the Paris landmark. To get the COVID-19 pass, people must show they are fully vaccinated, have a negative virus test or prove that they recently recovered from an infection.

“The world is facing a new wave, and we must act,” French 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, Castex said 96% 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 Wednesday at cultural and tourist sites, following a government decree.

Reactions to the new requiremen­ts were mixed.

“I wanted to come here with my mom so I had to take to the test to be able to travel,” said Juan Truque, an accountant visiting from Miami, who is not vaccinated. “They are forcing you to wear face masks and do similar kinds of things that are some kind of imposition­s ... to me that are violations to your freedom.”

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.

Meanwhile, President Emmanuel Macron wants to expand the COVID-19 pass requiremen­t to 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, 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 that the government will seek approval from the Constituti­onal Court, which also will 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 older, 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 re-imposing virus restrictio­ns. The government is worried that pressure will grow on hospitals again in coming weeks.

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