'No problem at all': Expat Aussies embrace France's vaccine passport rules

Vive le passeport vaccinal!

Australians in France have welcomed the revolutionary new system of COVID-19 vaccine passes introduced by President Emmanuel Macron to gain entry to the country's restaurants, cafes, bars, cinemas, theatres, museums and sporting venues.

And, despite four straight weeks of national demonstrations protesting against the alleged loss of those traditional prized attributes of liberté, égalité and fraternité, expats living and holidaying there say la vie est belle.

"We've had no problem at all with it," said Melburnian Kath Lockett, 52. She lives in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of southeastern France with husband Dean, 53, and works for the International Standards Organisation. "Restaurant workers just use what looks like an attachment on a mobile phone to check it.

"It's very simple and a very, very small inconvenience – 30 seconds? – to prove that you're vaccinated and care about others around you. We do have people banging pots and shouting about their freedom but they are a small minority and it's only since the pass has been mandatory that a lot of uncertain people have now got vaccinated."

Many cities in France also have several rapid antigen testing sites so if people don't have an official pass sanitaire, they can have a COVID test and receive the result in 15 minutes.

Sydneysider Arabella Comyn, speaking from Paris where she's on a break from her base in Spain, says it seems to be up to proprietors whether they're happy to accept that instead of the pass.

"I do feel for people who have not yet been eligible for vaccines, or have been unable to get vaccinated," said Comyn, 25, who works in development aid.

"But I think passports for foods and bars and other cultural sites is a good move. As for Australia, I think introducing something similar in bars and restaurants would be a good idea. I did hear from one friend here, however, that a supermarket was asking for the passport and I think that's way too excessive. Unvaccinated people also need food."

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The application of the rules does seem to vary massively from site to site, the expat Aussies report. Some businesses adhere to them strictly, others less so.

Kylie Thurston, 48, originally from Sydney but working in Geneva at the British Embassy and currently visiting St Tropez in the south of France, says queues waiting outside restaurants and bars while patrons' vaccine status is being checked is now a common sight.

"In our hotel, we had to show our pass, while other places checked in QR codes, and still others are quite relaxed and just sort of wave you in. There, you get the impression that sometimes it's a bit token.

"But I think that if everyone has access to the vaccine and to the technology, then it's a good way forward. It's a choice whether you want to go to restaurants and concerts and sporting events. You can choose not to have the vaccine and not go."

Grant Belchamber, 60, from Adelaide, who lives in France close to the Swiss border and works for the International Labour Organisation, believes that despite the rocketing number of COVID-positive cases in the country, this move at least has encouraged more people to get vaccinated.

"That's something that's worked well," he said. "It's a hoary issue and, while I wouldn't force anyone to get the vaccination, in a civilised society there are rules of engagement and rules of behaviour. I support freedom and democracy, but I also support public health."

And, more than anything else, it gives peace of mind, says Lockett.

"If anything, the pass sanitaire gives me more freedom," she said. "I know that when I'm in a bar or café, everyone else there is also vaccinated. It's a sign that we are safe."

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