French Parliament passes COVID pass bill: All you need to know about the legislation causing a storm

The bill seeks to restrict restaurant, theatre and other access to the unvaccinated following Emmanuel Macron’s pledge to ‘piss off’ those without the COVID-19 jabs

FP Staff January 07, 2022 17:04:59 IST
French Parliament passes COVID pass bill: All you need to know about the legislation causing a storm

Members of the public queue outside a pharmacy to receive COVID-19 antigen tests in Paris on 6 January 6. AFP

At a time when the European world is battling a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases, prompting many countries to make coronavirus shots mandatory for health workers and other high-risk groups, French parliament approved President Emmanuel Macron’s plans for a COVID vaccine.

The legislation was passed after three days of fiery debates and the controversy that erupted over Emmanuel Macron's 'piss off' the unvaccinated comment.

Legislators passed the law by a margin of 214 to 93. Many of those who voted against the bill were from the far right or hard left.

What does the bill say?

The bill makes it obligatory to have a full course of vaccination against COVID-19 to enjoy basic parts of life, including inter-city train travel, attending cultural events, visiting cinemas, theatres, museums or even accessing restaurants, bars and hotels.

The vaccine pass rules will apply to those aged above 16, and not above 12 as the government had initially sought. Hospitals and health establishments would not require a ‘vaccine pass’.

A negative COVID-19 test will no longer suffice as it did before.

Until now, France has been using the 'passe sanitaire' (health pass) that required either vaccination, recovery from COVID or a negative test for everyone over the age of 12.

As of now, vaccination is compulsory only for health workers, but this legislation, which seeks approval in the upper house — the senat — will make taking the jab effectively mandatory for everyone.

The bill also imposes heavy fines on people manufacturing fake vaccine passes and those not imposing the vaccine pass law efficiently. As reported by AFP, people holding a fake vaccine pass could face as long as five years in jail or a fine of 75,000 euros.

Reaction to the legislation

Prime Minister Jean Castex told the French news and weather channel BFMTV he hoped the vaccine pass could come into force on 15 January as originally planned and described the COVID-19 situation in France as “extremely worrying”.

The legislation has also caused anger among the ‘anti-vaxxers’. There have been protests in France in opposition to the COVID pass.

French Parliament passes COVID pass bill All you need to know about the legislation causing a storm

File image of leader of French nationalist party "Les Patriotes" (The Patriots) Florian Philippot leading a march during a demonstration against France's COVID-19 health pass in Paris. AFP

“I will never get vaccinated,” Bruno Auquier, a 53-year-old town councilor who lives on the outskirts of Paris was quoted as telling the Associated Press.

Lucien, a 28-year-old retail shop manager, too was quoted as saying that he wasn’t anti-vaccine, but thought that everyone should be able to do as they please with their own body. “The government is going too far,” he said.

Far left presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon of LFI accused the government of having “sown indescribable chaos because of your short-sightedness”.

What did Macron have to say?

Interestingly, the COVID pass legislation was passed just days after Emmanuel Macron in an interview said that he wanted to “piss off” unvaccinated people. This remark brought huge condemnation from the opposition months before the next presidential election.

In the interview, he had said, "We have to tell (the unvaccinated)... you will no longer be able to go to the restaurant. You will no longer be able to go for a coffee, you will no longer be able to go to the theatre. You will no longer be able to go to the cinema," the president said.

Coronavirus situation in France

On Thursday, France France reported 261,481 new coronavirus infections, less than the record of more than 332,000 set on Wednesday, but the seven-day moving average of new cases rose above 200,000 for the first time since the start of the health crisis.

While more than 90 percent of French adults have been fully jabbed, one of the highest rates in the world, the remaining 10 percent have refused to have the COVID vaccine.

The Guardian reported that about 66,000 people had their first vaccine on Wednesday after the president’s controversial comments, the highest number in 24 hours since the beginning of October.

With inputs from agencies

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