France Approves Covid Pass Measure
France passed a new Covid-19 law on Sunday evening that makes health passes mandatory for a number of indoor sites as the country faces a fourth wave of infections. The vote came after days of heated parliamentary debates that lasted long into the night and protests against the measure in dozens of French cities.
President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday: “With the Delta variant, the epidemic resumes”, adding: “My message is simple: get vaccinated”.
Around 40 million people, or nearly 60% of the French population, have received a first injection, but the number of new daily cases has risen sharply over the past week, to more than 15,000 on average, compared to less than 2,000 at the end of June.
More than 160,000 people demonstrated across France this weekend to protest against health passport legislation, with brief clashes between largely unmasked demonstrators and police in Paris. Far-right politicians and members of the yellow vests movement were among the organizers of the marches.
The health pass – paper or digital proof of a complete vaccination, a recent negative test or a recent recovery from Covid-19 – was already compulsory to attend major events in stadiums and concert halls, and to enter in cultural places such as cinemas, museums and theaters.
The new law, which will come into force at the beginning of August and can apply until November 15, extends this obligation to bars, restaurants, gymnasiums and certain shopping centers. Establishments that fail to enforce the rules will face penalties and their employees could face pay suspensions – but not layoffs – if they don’t get the vaccine as well.
A valid health pass will also be required for non-emergency medical facility visits and long-distance train and bus trips. Young people aged 12 to 17 are exempt from the rules until September 3.
Mr Macron, speaking on a visit to the Pacific Islands of French Polynesia, said he respects people who have doubts about the possibility of being vaccinated and that authorities will respond to them with “patience , conviction, support “. But he criticized those who were in “irrational, sometimes cynical and manipulative” opposition to vaccines.
“A freedom where I owe nothing to anyone does not exist,” Macron told reporters in a hospital in Tahiti, one of the islands. “What is your freedom worth if you tell me you don’t want to be vaccinated?” And tomorrow you infect your father, your mother or myself. I am a victim of your freedom.
Mr Macron raised the possibility that hospitals would have to postpone crucial surgeries, as they have done in previous waves, to make room for Covid-19 patients who had refused to be vaccinated.
“It’s not called freedom,” he said. “This is called irresponsibility, selfishness.”
The new law also requires healthcare workers and other essential workers, such as firefighters, to be vaccinated before fall, and it mandates a 10-day isolation period after infection. Before it can be enforced, the law still needs to be reviewed next week by the Constitutional Council, which verifies that the legislation complies with the Constitution.
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