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Thursday, September 23, 2021

France approves a contentious law making health passes mandatory.


A new law, known as Covid-19, was passed late on Sunday in France, making health passes mandatory for a number of indoor venues as the country battles a fourth wave of infections. Days of heated parliamentary debates that went late into the night, as well as demonstrations against the measure in dozens of French cities, culminated in the vote on Sunday.

“With the Delta variant, the epidemic is resuming,” President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday, adding, “My message is simple: get vaccinated.” He also urged people to get vaccinated.

Approximately 40 million people, or nearly 60% of France’s population, have received their first vaccination, but the number of new cases per day has increased dramatically over the past week, rising to over 15,000 on average, from fewer than 2,000 at the end of June, according to the latest figures.

A total of more than 160,000 people demonstrated across France over the weekend in opposition to the health pass legislation, with brief clashes erupting between mostly unmasked protesters and police officers in Paris. Extreme right-wing politicians and members of the Yellow Vest movement were among those responsible for organising the marches.

In addition to being required to attend large events in stadiums and concert halls, as well as to enter cultural venues such as cinemas, museums and theatres, the health pass — either paper or digital proof of being fully vaccinated, of a recent negative test or of a recent Covid-19 recovery — was already in place.

The new law, which will take effect in early August and be in effect until Nov. 15, expands the scope of this obligation to include bars, restaurants, gyms, and certain shopping malls. Those businesses that fail to comply with these regulations face financial penalties; employees who do not comply may face pay suspensions — but not terminations — if they do not receive the required vaccinations.

Visitors to medical facilities who are not in need of immediate attention, as well as long-distance train and bus rides, will be required to present a valid health pass. Until September 3, young people between the ages of 12 and 17 are exempt from the rules.

On a visit to the Pacific islands of French Polynesia, President Macron said that he understood people’s concerns about getting their vaccinations and that the authorities would respond to them with “patience, conviction, and support.” Mr. Macron was speaking about his visit to the islands. He, on the other hand, slammed those who were “irrational, sometimes cynical, and manipulative” in their opposition to vaccinations.

“There is no such thing as a freedom where I owe nothing to anyone,” Mr. Macron told reporters at a hospital in Tahiti, one of the islands. If you tell me you don’t want to be vaccinated, what do you think your liberty is worth? And the next day, you infect your father, your mother, or myself with the virus. My freedom has made me a victim of your liberty.”

Among the concerns raised by Mr. Macron was the possibility that hospitals would be forced to postpone critical surgeries, as they had done in previous waves, in order to make room for Covid-19 patients who refused to receive their shots.

“That is not what we call freedom,” he clarified. “That is what is referred to as irresponsibility and selfishness.”

The new law also requires health-care workers and other essential workers, such as firefighters, to get vaccinated by the fall, and it mandates a 10-day quarantine period following an infection, which must be completed by the end of the year. The law must still be reviewed by the Constitutional Council next week before it can be put into effect. The Constitutional Council is responsible for ensuring that legislation complies with the Constitution.


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