French Health Minister Olivier Véran rejected the opposition's claims as misleading.
“The coronavirus vaccine will not be compulsory, neither to take public transport, nor to enter a restaurant, and obviously not to go to work,” Véran said in a TV interview with TF1 on Tuesday evening.
Insisting that the law proposal had “nothing to do with the current health crisis” and that the law was only a “toolbox” in order to deal with future health crises, the health minister said the text had been postponed for “several months”.
“The government will not put this text to parliament before this crisis is over,” he said, adding that the French National Assembly would vote on the law in April.
“It is not withdrawn . . . but it is not the moment to present it to parliament,” Véran said.
Prime Minister Jean Castex on Monday got his cabinet's backing for the now postponed bill, which is designed to provide a legal framework for dealing with health crises.
According to the text, a negative test or proof of a “preventative treatment, including the administration of a vaccine” could be required for people to be granted “access to transport or to some locations, as well as certain activities”.
⚡??FLASH – En procédure accélérée, le gouvernement a déposé hier soir à l'Assemblée un projet de loi instituant “un régime pérenne de gestion des urgences sanitaires” qui permettrait de restreindre l'accès à certains lieux aux personnes non vaccinées.https://t.co/eAKmZY47xG pic.twitter.com/uQ49Q0mBFs
— Brèves de presse (@Brevesdepresse) December 22, 2020
According to opinion polls, 55 percent of French people say they will not get a Covid-19 shot, one of the highest rates in the European Union.
President Emmanuel Macron has promised that coronavirus vaccinations, though strongly recommended, will not be mandatory.
Véran reiterated this promise on Tuesday.
But opposition politicians condemned the draft law, with Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right Rassemblement National (RN) party, calling it an “essentially totalitarian” measure.
“In a backhanded way, this bill does not aim to make vaccinations mandatory, but will prevent anybody who doesn't comply from having a social life,” she said.
Guillaume Peltier, deputy leader of the centre-right Les Républicains (LR) party, said it was “inconceivable” that the government should be allowed to “get all the power to suspend our freedoms without parliamentary control.”
Centrist senator Nathalie Goulet said the draft was “an attack on public freedoms”, while the far-left deputy Alexis Corbière said “we could a least have a collective discussion if the idea is to limit our public liberties.”
In response, Public Sector Minister Amelie de Montchalin said the bill was “not at all made to create exceptional powers for the government” or “create a health state.”
She said there would be a debate about the bill during which “everything that needs clarification will be clarified.”
The EU gave the green light for a Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on Monday, paving the way for the first inoculations to start across 27 countries just after Christmas.