France may grant American citizens who have been vaccinated or tested negative for COVID-19 a “special pass” to visit over the summer, President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday.
France is currently under its third national lockdown with all non-essential shops closed, cross-country travel strictly prohibited and a nighttime curfew kicking in at 19:00. Only travellers from the European Union and a select few third countries — which do not include the US — are meanwhile allowed to enter France with a negative test.
Speaking to CBS News” “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Macron said that lockdown measures in France should start being progressively lifted from early May and that an acceleration of the vaccination campaign should see every adult receive at least one dose of the vaccine before the end of the summer, as planned.
This, Macron said, “means that we will organise in the summertime with our professionals in France for French, European citizens, but as well for American citizens.”
“We are working hard to propose very concrete solutions, especially for US citizens who are vaccinated, so with a special pass I would say.”
He added that officials from the French government and the White House are “finalising the technical discussions.”
European Green certificate
Pre-pandemic, France was the world’s top destination for foreigners with 89 million international arrivals in 2019. American tourists were the most numerous after travellers from other EU/EEA countries.
But the global health crisis decimated the travel industry worldwide in 2020. The Old Continent suffered the largest drop in arrivals in absolute terms with over 500 million fewer international tourists, according to the World Tourism Organisation (WTO).
Macron said the “special pass” could be part of the European certificate. “The idea indeed is to, altogether, offer that to the American citizens when they decided to vaccinate or with a PCR test being negative.”
The European Commission outlined its plan for a European Green Certificate to facilitate “safe and free movement” inside the 27-country bloc in March. It will comprise three separate certificates attesting that the person has either received a dose of the vaccines, recently tested negative or recovered from COVID-19 over the previous 180 days.
Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton told French television on Sunday that its use will be tested in early June for a rollout scheduled for mid-June, “late June at the latest.”
Sputnik V ‘not a solution’
The Commission has stressed that its certificate will only include jabs that have been approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) which include AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — the latter three are also being used in the US.
The European vaccination campaign has been criticised for its slowness with some member states turning to vaccines not approved by the European watchdog, including the Russian-made Sputnik V and Chinese jabs.
Macron rejected on Sunday the idea that Europe needs the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine to further accelerate its vaccination campaign.
He said the production of vaccines in Europe has been ramped up in recent weeks so that the EU “will be in a situation to meet our targets with what we have now.”
“I don’t think that the Russian vaccine today is a solution to an acceleration because it will take time to have the authorisation of the European agency and it will take time to produce on our continent such a vaccine,” he highlighted.
He estimated that some 2.5 billion doses of the vaccines will be manufactured on European soil this year.
He also called for more cooperation worldwide to provide vaccines to lower-income countries, flagging that “if we don’t vaccinate in these countries, there is no way to get rid of the virus.”
“Because if we leave this country is being contaminated by COVID-19 in South and Latin America, in Africa, you will have more and more people being contaminated. You will have new variants and they will come back in our countries. So I think this is not sufficient just to be focused on the rich countries,” he said.