France’s National Assembly has passed a bill which, if approved by Senate next week, would make vaccination against Covid a must for those wishing to eat out, visit cultural venues, and travel across the country.
Following several days of fierce debate in the lower chamber of the French Parliament, early on Thursday morning lawmakers finally gave the green light to a piece of legislation that sets out to address the spread of Covid in the country. 214 MPs voted for, 93 against, and 27 abstained.
Among the measures featured in the bill is the introduction of so-called ‘vaccine passes’, to replace the existing ‘health passes’ which people have to present in order to be able to visit cafes, bars, and restaurants, as well as cinemas, museums, and interregional public transport. Under the current rules, people who have either recovered from Covid within the past six months or have been vaccinated are eligible to receive a health pass. There is another avenue still open under this system: a negative PCR or antigen test gives access to a health pass which is valid for 24 hours.
A vaccine pass would, however, be different; as the name suggests, it would no longer be given in exchange for negative test results, and would be issued only to those who have recently recovered or been fully vaccinated against Covid.
The rules would apply to everyone over 12, bar those with medical exemptions.
The bill came under fire in the National Assembly from both the far-right and far-left parties, which slammed the legislation as an attack on the personal freedoms of the French.
Adding fuel to the fire was President Emmanuel Macron’s comment to a French newspaper on Tuesday, where he defined his strategy as “pissing off” the unvaccinated. Macron said that only a “small minority” was still recalcitrant, adding that his government would be putting more pressure to limit those people’s social lives, in a bid to make them embrace vaccination
Senate will start discussing the bill next Tuesday, with Emmanuel Macron’s government hoping to pass it into law by January 15. This could be delayed, however, as the Republicans have said they will refer the controversial legislation to France’s Constitutional Council. The conservatives want it to check whether the need to protect the French people from Covid was “balanced” against the need to respect the citizens’ personal freedoms.
On Wednesday, 332,000 new Covid cases were reported in France – a new daily record not only for that country, but for any nation in Europe. With the advent of Omicron, the number of infections has been rising steadily in France. It is estimated that approximately five million people there have yet to be vaccinated against Covid.