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.