Covid screening tests in France will no longer be free for unvaccinated people starting on Oct. 15, according to the French authorities, a change that signals a new phase in the government’s strategy to quell coronavirus infections by encouraging people to get inoculated.
Unvaccinated people will now essentially have to pay to enter cafes, restaurants and theaters, because under a law enacted this summer, entering many indoor venues requires proof of being fully vaccinated, of a recent negative test or of a recent Covid-19 recovery.
Tests will remain free for vaccinated people.
The introduction of the health pass prompted large protests over the summer, with demonstrators including people calling it an infringement on their freedom, vaccine conspiracy theorists, and activists on the far left and the far right.
The law also includes mandatory inoculation for health workers — representing about three million people in France — by Oct. 15. Although most have received at least a first vaccine dose, some have held out. About 3,000 health workers have been suspended as a result, the government said last week.
A sharp decline in the number of protesters and a surge in vaccination rates in recent months suggest that President Emmanuel Macron’s gamble to increase restrictions to encourage vaccination has paid off.
But with vaccination rates lagging again in recent weeks, the government renewed its mixture of mandates and inducements — including an ad campaign promoting the “desirable” effects of vaccines — to encourage people to get vaccinated.
France, one of the most vaccine-sceptical countries in the world, has now fully inoculated nearly 70 percent of its population against the coronavirus, one of the highest rates in Europe, according to data from The New York Times.
Covid tests for unvaccinated people will cost $25 to $50, according to French press reports.
“It is no longer legitimate to pay for unlimited comfort tests at taxpayers’ expense,” Prime Minister Jean Castex told the newspaper Les Echos last month, adding that tests prescribed by a doctor and those for minors would continue to be reimbursed.
“The rationale,” he said, “is to reimburse tests linked to real medical reasons, and to keep encouraging vaccination.”
In August, Germany also announced plans to end free Covid tests for the unvaccinated, scheduling the change for Oct. 11.