The French parliament on Monday approved a law that made special virus passports a part of daily life and vaccination mandatory for health workers as the nation continued its fight against a resurging coronavirus (Covid-19) disease. A compromise was reached between the two Houses of parliament amid massive protests against the new measures that many believe were an infringement to civil liberties.
President Emmanuel Macron last week ordered that the health pass — proof of full vaccination or a negative test — would be required for the French to visit any public venues such as cinemas, nightclubs or even trains and planes. It initially applies to only adults, but will become mandatory for everyone above 12 years of age starting September 30. The health pass can be in paper or digital format.
The law also requires all workers in the healthcare sector to start getting vaccinated by September 15 or risk suspension. The new law further says a government decree will outline how to handle vaccination documents from other nations.
The rules will be applicable through November 15 depending on the pandemic situation.
The bill was unveiled just six days ago. Lawmakers worked through the night and the weekend to reach a compromise version approved by the Senate on Sunday night and by the National Assembly after midnight.
The new legislations are part of the Macron government’s bid to make vaccinations the top weapon against Covid-19 as new variants emerge taking a toll on the country’s health infrastructure. More than 1,11,000 people have lost their lives to the virus in France, which is registering about 20,000 new infections daily compared to just a few thousand earlier this month.
Macron appealed for national unity and mass vaccination to fight the resurgent virus, and lashed out at those fueling anti-vaccine sentiment and protests.
About 1,60,000 people staged protests across the country on Saturday against the special pass rule and mandatory vaccinations for health workers. Many marchers shouted “liberty!” and said the government should not tell them what to do.
On a visit to a hospital in French Polynesia, Macron asked, “What is your freedom worth if you say to me ‘I don’t want to be vaccinated,’ but tomorrow you infect your father, your mother or myself?”
While he said protesters are “free to express themselves in a calm and respectful manner,” he said demonstrations won’t make the coronavirus go away.
He slammed “people who are in the business of irrational, sometimes cynical, manipulative mobilization” against vaccination. Among those organising the protests have been far-right politicians and extremist members of France’s yellow vest movement tapping into the anger at the Macron government.