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French parliament agrees to adopt health passports law

France's parliament has formally adopted legislation making health passports a key part of daily life in the battle against Covid-19, after a compromise deal between lawmakers from the upper and lower houses.

French parliament agrees to adopt health passports law
Photo: Jean-Christophe Verhaegen/AFP

The breakthrough in talks between members of the National Assembly and Senate came a day after nationwide protests against the rules that saw over 160,000 rally and dozens arrested.

The agreement was reached after 60 hours of debate, with health minister Olivier Véran tweeting that it was “a good evening for democracy, a bad one for the virus”.

President Emmanuel Macron last week ordered that the health pass – proof of a double vaccination, recent recovery from Covid or a negative test – would be required for the French to visit venues such as a cinema or nightclub and ultimately bars and restaurants.

The announcement was a move by Macron to make vaccinations the number one weapon against Covid-19 as new variants emerge, and has seen 6 million people sign up for vaccinations in the two weeks since his speech.

But it has encountered fierce opposition from some who believe the vaccine passports erode civil liberties, while both upper and lower houses of parliament saw mammoth debates and hundreds of amendments proposed.

After talks, the bill was finally adopted late on Sunday with only minor changes from the original proposal.

The major change is the removal of criminal sanctions for establishments that do not check health passports – instead of a fine of up to €15,000 and a one-year imprisonment there will now be civil sanctions including the closure of the venue.

Employees of venues that require a health pass cannot be dismissed if they refuse to be vaccinated or regularly tested, but will instead be asked to take annual leave and then unpaid leave, while remaining an employee of the company.

French lawmakers struck a deal after health pass protests. Photo: Alain JOCARD / AFP.
‘Irresponsibility and egoism’

Some 161,000 people, including 11,000 in Paris had protested on Saturday against the health pass, with demonstrators brandishing slogans including “freedom is being trampled on”.

Seventy-one people were arrested, including 24 in Paris, and 29 members of the security forces were injured, the ministry of the interior said.

On a visit to France’s Pacific territory of French Polynesia, Macron scoffed at how slogans of freedom were being brandished at the protests.

“Everyone is free to express themselves calmly with respect for one another,” he said. “But freedom, where I owe nothing to someone else, does not exist”.

He said that under such logic, relatives could be infected by someone who is not vaccinated “when there is the chance to have something that protects”, or the person could themselves end up in hospital.

“I don’t call this freedom, I call this irresponsibility and selfishness,” he said.

By maximising the number of vaccinations, the government wants to minimise the impact of the virus’ fourth wave. On Sunday France hit the milestone of 40 million people – 60 percent of the population – having at least one dose of the vaccine while 33 million are fully vaccinated.

France recorded almost 23,000 new Covid cases on Saturday, twice as many as last week, as the Delta variant causes infections to surge.

But in figures the government credits to the success of the vaccination rollout, there are 878 people in intensive care with Covid, compared with a peak of almost 6,000 at the end of April.

READ ALSO: Tens of thousands protest against Macron’s health pass in France

Member comments

  1. I think a lot of the protest is about the Govt assuming powers they might not hand back. Maybe the Senate should agree the measures subject to a 3-monthly review or build-in a sunset clause.

    1. Sloppy reporting here by The Local… the measures expire on 15th November.
      From the embedded Le Parisien link (in translation): “Beyond November 15, the pass system can only continue with a new vote in Parliament.”

  2. Bravo Macron ! No freedom without responsibility ! Let the unvaccinated stay home in confinement. I just wish that American leadership could be so bold!

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POLITICS

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France’s disabilities minister

France's disabilities minister will not face a new inquiry "as things stand" over a rape allegation that surfaced just after his nomination by President Emmanuel Macron last week, prosecutors have said, citing the anonymity of the alleged victim.

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France's disabilities minister

Damien Abad has faced growing pressure to resign after the news website Mediapart reported the assault claims by two women dating from over a decade ago, which he has denied.

One of the women, identified only by her first name, Margaux, filed a rape complaint in 2017 that was later dismissed by prosecutors.

The other woman, known only as Chloe, told Mediapart that in 2010 she had blacked out after accepting a glass of champagne from Abad at a bar in Paris, and woke up in her underwear in pain with him in a hotel room. She believes she may have been drugged.

She did not file an official complaint, but the Paris prosecutors’ office said it was looking into the case after being informed by the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics, a group formed by members of France’s MeToo movement.

“As things stand, the Paris prosecutors’ office is not following up on the letter” from the observatory, it said, citing “the inability to identify the victim of the alleged acts and therefore the impossibility of proceeding to a hearing.”

In cases of sexual assault against adults, Paris prosecutors can open an inquiry only if an official complaint is made, meaning the victim must give their identity.

Abad has rejected the calls to resign in order to ensure the new government’s “exemplarity,” saying that he is innocent and that his own condition of arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his joints, means sexual relations can occur only with the help of a partner.

The appointment of Abad as minister for solidarities and people with disabilities in a reshuffle last Friday was seen as a major coup for Macron, as the 42-year-old had defected from the right-wing opposition.

The new prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, said she was unaware of the allegations before Abad’s nomination, but insisted that “If there is new information, if a new complaint is filed, we will draw all the consequences.”

The claims could loom large over parliamentary elections next month, when Macron is hoping to secure a solid majority for his reformist agenda. Abad will be standing for re-election in the Ain department north of Lyon.

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