Cannes’ COVID Protocols: Masks and Testing Won’t Be Mandatory

The Cannes Film Festival, which is set to kick off on May 17 in the French Riviera, is significantly loosening its COVID health and safety protocols.

The annual celebration of movies won’t be testing attendees as it did last year and will not institute a mask mandate at screenings and events.

Variety spoke exclusively with Cannes general secretary François Desrousseaux, who has been hammering out protocols with the festival’s organizers, producers and Cannes regional authorities for the last couple of years. One big change compared with 2021 is that the health pass which made it mandatory for all attendees to show a proof of vaccination, immunity or test results has been scrapped since March 14.

“Since vaccination is no longer required to enter the Palais and access screenings or press conferences, guests will be able to come and go without having to get tested,” said Desrousseaux. The executive said “most participants will likely be vaccinated anyway, because France has made it very complicated for non-vaccinated travellers to enter the country.” He also pointed out roughly 95% of the adult population in France has already received two shots of the vaccine. “We’re in a very different situation as last year because the curb of COVID-19 infections is going down, instead of going up,” the Paris-based executive said.

As of April 29, cases of COVID in France dropped by 30%, a sign that the rate of infection is slowing. However, film festivals and awards shows have been super-spreader events, with the likes of SXSW, the Oscars and the BAFTA awards resulting in numerous cases of COVID.

Desrousseaux said the absence of compulsory testing should come as a relief to all those whose vaccination cards didn’t qualify for the health pass last year – notably British and American guests — and therefore had to go through a demanding saliva test every two days in the pop-up lab adjacent to the Palais.

Although Cannes won’t be setting up again its 300 square-meter testing lab, guests will be able to get a PCR test in a lab located in the city of Cannes, a five-minute walk from the Palais. Non-French citizens will be charged €43, said Desrousseaux.

Another change from last year is that masks will not be mandatory indoors, but will instead be strongly recommended. Desrousseaux said the Cannes staff will be wearing a mask, however. He said the Palais des Festivals was France’s first congress venue to be awarded the GBAC STARTM Facility label (an American certification which is issued by the American Biorisk Advisory Council) and the Ecovid label. “That basically means that the Palais is using top-of-the-line CO2 sensors which are verified twice a day, and we’re renewing the air conditioning constantly,” said the executive.

A couple of initiatives will be brought back for this 75th edition. For instance the medical cell located inside the Palais which will be staffed with a team dedicated to COVID-19, as well as a call center called Conciergerie Medicale which will allow international guests to get advice on how to navigate the French medical system and get a doctor’s appointment. The video-consultation will be free and scheduled within 24 hours upon request.

Looking back at the efficiency of last year’s stricter health protocol, Desrousseaux said there were only between 8 to 10 positive cases out of 1,500 tests per day. “During the last few days, the number of cases rose to 22 because the third wave was about to kick off but we were really lucky to avoid it,” he said.

In terms of participation, Desrousseaux said the festival was on track to welcome approximately 35,000 accredited guests, compared with roughly 23,000 last year. The biggest spike in participation is coming from North America and Western Europe.

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