PARIS – The French Parliament on Monday morning approved a law requiring special anti-virus passes for all restaurants and domestic travel and making the vaccination of all health workers compulsory.
Both measures sparked protests and political tension. President Emmanuel Macron and his government say they are needed to protect vulnerable populations and hospitals as infections rebound and to avoid further blockages.
The law requires that all workers in the health care sector begin to be vaccinated before September 15, under penalty of suspension. It also requires a “health pass” to enter all restaurants, trains, planes and other public places. It initially applies to all adults, but will apply to all ages 12 and over from September 30.
To get the pass, people must have proof that they have been fully vaccinated, recently tested negative, or recently recovered from the virus. Paper or digital documents will be accepted. The law says that a government decree will describe how to handle vaccination records from other countries.
The bill was unveiled just six days ago. Lawmakers worked through the night and over the weekend to come up with a compromise version approved by the Senate on Sunday night and by the National Assembly after midnight. The rules can be applied until November 15, depending on the virus situation.
Macron called for national unity and mass vaccination to fight the resurgence of the virus, and lashed out at those fueling anti-vaccine sentiment and protests.
About 160,000 people demonstrated across France on Saturday against a special COVID-19 pass for restaurants and mandatory vaccinations for health workers. Many demonstrators shouted “freedom! And said the government shouldn’t tell them what to do.
Visiting a hospital in French Polynesia afterwards, Macron urged national unity and asked: “What is your freedom worth if you tell me ‘I don’t want to be vaccinated’, but tomorrow you infect your father, your mother or myself?
While he said the protesters are “free to speak in a calm and respectful manner,” he said the protests will not make the coronavirus go away.
He criticized “people who engage in an irrational, sometimes cynical, manipulative mobilization” against vaccination. Among those who organized the protests are far-right politicians and extremist members of the French yellow vest movement who have exploited anger against Macron’s government.
More than 111,000 people with the virus have died in France, which records around 20,000 new infections per day against only a few thousand at the start of the month. Concerns about hospitals are resurfacing.