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POLITICS

French parliament approves introduction of vaccine pass

The bill changing France's health pass into a vaccine pass which bars the unvaccinated from venues including cafés, gyms and long-distance trains has been approved by the French parliament and is expected to enter into effect this week.

Health pass control in France
Proof of vaccination will now be required to enter leisure and cultural venues in France. Photo: Pascal Pochard Casablanca/AFP

MPs in the Assemblée nationale voted on the bill’s final reading on Sunday evening, with 215 in favour of the vaccine pass and 58 against.

France has had a health pass in place since the summer, requiring visitors to venues including bars, restaurants, cafés, gyms, leisure centres, theatres, cinemas, tourist sites, large gatherings and long-distance trains to show either proof of vaccination, proof of recent recovery from Covid or a negative Covid test.

However, the passing of this bill means means that only proof of vaccination will be accepted for the pass.

READ ALSO What changes when France’s health pass becomes a vaccine pass?

The new rule is expected to come into force this week, with Friday, January 21st suggested as a likely start date.

The government’s original planned start date was January 15th, but the bill was delayed several times as it passed through the Assemblée nationale on the first reading, the Senate and then back to the Assemblée nationale.

Some of the opposition parties have said they intend to appeal to the Constitutional Council, which considers whether new laws or decrees in France comply with the country’s constitution.

For people who are already vaccinated and use either a paper vaccination certificate or the TousAntiCovid app to enter health pass venues, nothing will change.

But unvaccinated people will be shut out of a wide range of leisure and cultural venues, although vaccination is only mandatory for health workers in France. 

Member comments

  1. Q ? – Is the plan to keep the vaccine passport only until the Cov.19 Pandemic is over or is the plan that once the pandemic is over the Health Pass be re-tasked to exclude members of society that do not take, say, a flu vaccine ?

    Q ? – Does anyone know where it is that the establishment are developing an ‘anti-social scoring matrix ‘ that is embedded into their National identity pass necessary for access to all manor of aspects of life – in their case, simply put should you in any way offend society you get a black mark which is recorded and then effects you in a number of ways – such as the ability to get Credit, access restaurants, shopping malls and so forth. A – China.

    The most effective tools of a government (with aspiration for more control) is to plant into the conversation of society “what are you trying to hide” – “if you are a good member of society society will reward you with inclusion” –

    If you accept the loss of these freedoms easily – only when you look back and see the aggregate value of the liberty and freedom of self determination you have talked yourself out of will you regret giving up each small piece of freedom so easily now.

    So – when the pandemic is over will the Health Pass go ? And if not why not. We cannot develop a vaccine to give the population without any new Covid variant so when that scenario evolves – which it will do soon, why would we see a continued insistence on the Health Pass.

    I am vaccinated and happy to be so – why should it matter to me if my next door neighbour is un-vaccinated. The vaccine protects me (allegedly) so the only person at risk is my neighbour and that is his choice – surely ?

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POLITICS

Macron vs the unions: What happens next in France?

French President Emmanuel Macron is facing his biggest standoff with France's trade unions since coming to power in 2017, with the outcome of a series of strikes and protests seen as decisive for both sides.

Macron vs the unions: What happens next in France?

The 45-year-old leader has made raising the retirement age a signature domestic policy of his second term in office — something the unions and millions of protesters are determined to block.

After two days of nationwide strikes and demonstrations, AFP looks at what is likely to happen next on the streets, in parliament, inside the government, and in wider French public opinion.

On the streets

Labour leaders were delighted with their second day of protests on Tuesday, which they claimed had seen around 2.5 million people hit the streets, including in many small and medium-sized towns.

Official estimates put the figure at 1.27 million, compared to 1.1 million people during round one on January 19th, according to the interior ministry.

READ MORE: Calendar: The latest French pension strike dates to remember

Momentum is clearly with the unions who announced two further days of protests and strikes next week, on Tuesday and Saturday.

“The movement is growing and spread across the whole country,” the head of the hard-left CGT union, Philippe Martinez, said on Wednesday.

Nevertheless, unions no longer have the ability to paralyse the country and working-from-home practices mean most white-collar workers can easily adjust to transport stoppages.

The biggest fear of authorities is a repeat of the 2018 so-called “Yellow Vest” protests — a spontaneous movement drawn mostly from the countryside and small-town France that led to shockingly violent clashes with police. 

“The trauma was so big and the violence so great, I don’t see it happening again for the moment,” Bruno Cautres from Sciences Po university in Paris told AFP earlier this month. 

In government 

The government was expecting a rough ride — few major policy changes happen in France without protests, and former president Nicolas Sarkozy faced similar resistance with his pension reform in 2010.

Macron has faced numerous challenges from the unions in the past and has always succeeded in pushing through his pro business agenda and social security reforms.

The only exception was his first attempt at pension reform — also highly contested — which he withdrew in 2020 during the Covid 19 pandemic.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has been the public face of the latest proposals, while Macron has kept his statements and appearances to a minimum, as is his habit.

But with the battle lines hardening and protests growing, the president might be forced to enter the fray. 

“I think the president will speak, but not right now,” a minister told AFP on condition of anonymity. “If he did it now, it would look like we’re panicking.”

In parliament

The draft legislation will be debated for the first time in the 577-seat National Assembly from Monday.

Macron’s allies are the largest group with 170 seats, but they do not hold a majority after a weaker-than-expected showing in June elections.

Support from the 62 rightwing Republicans (LR) party MPs will be essential.

LR has long supported raising the retirement age, but there are doubts over how many of their MPs will give the government their backing.

“I’m not asking the government to give in to the protests. This reform needs to be done,” LR parliamentary party chief Olivier Marleix said on Wednesday.

The lower house debate will finish on February 17th at the latest when a vote can be called — or the government could transfer it to the Senate or ram it through with controversial executive powers that dispense with the need for a ballot.

The bill is expected to pass the conservative-dominated Senate, where a vote is to take place by mid-March.

Public opinion

The latest polling figures show a growing majority opposes the reform and supports the protests, with roughly two in three people against the proposals.

Ministers have struggled to find winning arguments, at times arguing the changes are needed to reduce government spending, at others insisting they will make the pension system fairer.

“The government has not won with the argument that it is necessary,” Bernard Sananes, the head of the Elabe polling group, told AFP. “And it is fighting on another, more intense front which is that the reform is seen as unfair.”

In private, Macron’s allies insist their best hope is for parliament to quickly approve the legislation that will never be popular but might grudgingly be accepted as necessary.

“The question is how big the protest movement will be and how long it will last,” the minister told AFP.

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