Wednesday, December 1, 2021

New Restaurant Restrictions

Last year I wrote an article concerning the possible need to have a “vaccination passport” in order to be able to eat out.  The article mainly concerned plans being discussed in the UK at the time of the introduction of the new Covid vaccine.  Since then the world has moved on, vaccination programmes have been running smoothly and many restrictions on the hospitality industry have been relaxed.  But then came a new variant and some new restrictions.

Since June 9th the hospitality industry in France, and most of Europe, has enjoyed a gradual reopening, firstly with a limit of 50% capacity indoors and, since June 30th, with full opening of terraces and indoor spaces.  The number of daily new Covid cases in France has been extremely low at around 2000, well within the government’s target of 5000.  But over the past couple of weeks there has been a steady increase in cases and talk of the Delta variant being far more contagious.  The Delta variant has now become the dominant strain of coronavirus in France, like it has in the UK.

New Restaurant Restrictions
Image by Wilfried Pohnke from Pixabay

At present we are at the start of the peak holiday season.  Foreign visitors are allowed to enter France and, across Europe, a Pass Sanitaire has been put in place to enable cross border travel.  The Pass Sanitaire takes the form of a QR code on your phone which shows either your vaccination status or the results of recent PCR tests.  The Pass is also destined to be used for large events of more than 1000 people and for entry into nightclubs, which have reopened since July 9th.

On Monday July 12th President Macron made a televised address to the nation and in the space of 30 minutes everything changed again.  From August 1st anyone wishing to enter a bar or restaurant, either inside or on the terrace must prove they have been double vaccinated at least two weeks previously or provide a negative result from a PCR test taken within the previous 48 hours.  Testing, which has been free up until now, will also be chargeable. 

vaccine 5897391 1280
Image by hakan german from Pixabay

The same rules will apply to cinemas, theatres and any assembly of more than 50 people.  With roughly one third of the population double vaccinated, the restaurant industry has been plunged back into dark days in one simple move.  Please don’t misunderstand me, I am fully in favour of vaccination and the ability for a person to prove that they are vaccinated, but I am also a restaurateur.

So how is this going to work?  Short answer – not a clue!  Restaurateurs and their staff are to be responsible for checking every single customer’s details and if they are not as prescribed we are obliged to refuse service and ask that customer to leave.  Not so easy! At present I am not sure if we are going to need a QR code reader, whether or not we need to check a person’s ID against their data, especially if they provide a paper version of their vaccination status rather than digital.  One other factor to take into account is that all hospitality staff are also going to need to provide evidence of either vaccination or negative tests. 

In the last couple of days a delay has been announced to the restrictions on staff, but it isn’t much.  All staff are meant to have had a first injection by August 1st and are allowed until August 30th before facing sanctions.  Without a double vaccination, staff members will have to pay for a PCR test every 2 days!

What if, for some reason, hospitality staff are anti-vaccine?  Does the restaurateur or bar owner have to fire them, is that even legal?  Apparently the government is considering this and will put in place some measures – we wait.  In addition to the announcements concerning the hospitality industry it was also announced that vaccination for all health-care workers will be compulsory.

As you might expect the hospitality industry and its representatives are in uproar, particularly at a time when we are just getting back on our feet and with the start of the summer rush.  But if we are to have any future freedoms and to beat this virus we know that we must make tough decisions now and take drastic action.  I only hope that it is enough and that people realise they have a responsibility to, not only themselves, but their fellow human being and respect the rules in place.

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Dave Winteridge
I am a restaurateur in the South of France but originally from Great Britain. I have spent around 30 years in the hospitality industry and over the past 12 years I have opened restaurants in Spain and France. I am a keen skier, living in the Pyrenees, and ideally for the future I would like to spend less time at the stove and more time at the keyboard.

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