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France extends use of Covid health pass until July 2022

MPs in France have approved public health laws that allow for the continued use of the Covid health pass until July 31st, 2022, despite opposition from senators.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex, wearing a facemask, holds up his mobile phone to show an official his digital Covid-19 health pass before he can enter a political event
Photo: Jean-Francois Monier / AFP

MPs in the Assemblée nationale have approved the Vigilance Sanitaire bill by 118 votes to 89, in the process rejecting senators’ efforts to limit its scope and rework key articles. 

Its main purpose is to extend public health measures adopted because of the Covid-19 pandemic, including a requirement for people to have a pass sanitaire (health pass) to access particular venues and events.

The health pass requirement, under current rules, is due to end on November 15th.

The health pass will not necessarily remain in place until July 2022, but the passing of the bill allows the Prime Minister to extend it as required, or reimpose it at any time until next July. 

The bill also allows the government to impose mask mandates and to prohibit or restrict travel, gatherings and access to certain places, such as cafés, restaurants and public transport without the need to involve parliament.

The bill specifies that health restrictions must be justified by a series of criteria (vaccination rate, situation in hospitals and percentage of positive Covid tests) but does not set any specific threshold on them.

MPs in the lower house had already agreed to the extension, but members of the predominantly right-wing Senate had opposed it, first seeking to limit the period of the bill to February 28th.

However in case of dispute MPs in the lower house have the final say and have plumped for July – which will be after presidential and parliamentary elections next year.

Under the bill, sanctions against health fraud have been tightened. Currently, anyone making or obtaining a fake health pass can be jailed for three years and fined €45,000. That is extended to a maximum of five years in jail and €75,000.

The text also allows for principals of collegès and lycées to know the vaccination status of their students, or if their students have contracted the virus or been in contact with an infected person – this measure is one that senators had removed amid concerns over medical confidentiality.

The government said it would facilitate school vaccination and the management of class closures.

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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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