PARIS: People in France wishing to go to the cinemas, museums, sporting events or other cultural venues will have to certify that they’ve either tested negative for COVID, or have been fully vaccinated against it, by producing a so-called health pass.
According to details, the so-called “health pass” is required for all events or places with more than 50 people before being extended to restaurants, cafes and shopping centres in August. The measure, meant to contain COVID-19, sparked protests across the country.
French President Emmanuel Macron first made it mandatory for health workers to produce a health pass, saying that it would be extended to other places in the days to come. In spite of anger over the pass, a record 3 million people registered for vaccination within 72 hours of the announcement of the new rules.
Prime Minister Jean Castex has defended the policy, noting that nearly all new infections are in people who have not been immunised. “We´re in the fourth wave,” Castex said, adding that the goal of the health pass is to avoid a fourth nationwide lockdown.
Health Minister Olivier Veran lashed out at vaccine refuseniks, who have accused the government of flouting their freedom of choice. “Freedom is not about dodging taxes, or driving the wrong way up the motorway, or smoking in a restaurant or refusing a vaccine that protects me as much as it protects others,” he told parliament.
The Louvre museum and Eiffel Tower were among the sites that began implementing the vaccine checks. Nearly 38 million people, representing 56 percent of the French population, have received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to data.
Nearly 46 percent, have been fully vaccinated. The government aims to have given at least one shot to 50 million people by the end of the summer.
Tens of thousands of vaccine sceptics took to the streets in protest over the new vaccine rules last week, accusing President Emmanuel Macron of running a vaccine ‘dictatorship’.
The restrictions have even faced criticism from some lawmakers in Macron´s Republic on the Move (LREM) party. “Protecting public health has been our priority since March 2020, but it has not threatened the cohesion of our country because the rules were the same for everyone,” LREM lawmaker Pacome Rupin said.
“The health pass is going to fracture our country,” he said. Restaurant owners in particular are up in arms at the requirement to vet their customers´ vaccination status before serving them.
In a concession Thursday, Castex said that they would not have to check customers´ ID and that the government would not punish venues during the first week of the new rules.
After that, they face fines of up to 1,500 euros ($1,700) for a first-time offence, and more for subsequent violations. Children aged 12 to 17, who only became eligible for vaccination in mid-June, will not need the pass in August nor have to show one when heading back to school in September.