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French lawmakers OK covid passes, shots mandate

by Compiled Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports | July 27, 2021 at 4:31 a.m.

PARIS -- France's parliament approved a law early Monday requiring special virus passes for all restaurants and domestic travel, and mandating vaccinations for all health workers.

Both measures have prompted protests and political tensions. President Emmanuel Macron and his government say they are needed to protect vulnerable populations and hospitals as infections rebound and to avoid new lockdowns.

The law comes as Britain reported a drop in new coronavirus cases for a fifth consecutive day, a potential boost for Prime Minister Boris Johnson after a chaotic week since the lifting of pandemic restrictions.

"The prime minister doesn't think we are out of the woods yet," Johnson's spokesman, Jamie Davies, told reporters Monday. He said any impact from the most recent lifting of pandemic rules is not yet showing in the case data, though he acknowledged any reduction in cases is encouraging.

The new French virus pass law requires all workers in the health care sector to start getting vaccinated by Sept. 15, or risk suspension. It also requires a "health pass" to enter all restaurants, trains, planes and some other public venues. It initially applies to all adults, but will apply to everyone 12 and older starting Sept. 30.

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]

To get the pass, people must have proof they are fully vaccinated, recently tested negative or recently recovered from the virus. Paper or digital documents will be accepted. The law says a government decree will outline how to handle vaccination documents from other countries.

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 rules can be applied through Nov. 15, depending on the virus situation.

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 160,000 people protested around France on Saturday against a special covid-19 pass for restaurants and mandatory vaccinations for health workers. Many marchers shouted "liberty!" and said the government shouldn't tell them what to do.

Visiting a hospital in French Polynesia afterward, Macron urged national unity and 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 criticized "people who are in the business of irrational, sometimes cynical, manipulative mobilization" against vaccination. Among those organizing the protests have been far-right politicians and extremist members of France's yellow vest movement tapping into anger at Macron's government.

More than 111,000 people with the virus have died in France, which is registering about 20,000 new infections daily compared with just a few thousand earlier this month. Concerns for hospitals are resurfacing.

In Britain, a total of 29,173 new infections were recorded on Sunday, down from 31,795 a day earlier, according to data from Public Health England. New cases were in excess of 50,000 on July 17, but have since been on a downward trend.

Yet data in the coming days and weeks will be crucial: Venues such as nightclubs were allowed to reopen July 19, and any potential impact of this reopening could yet push up infections. Health Secretary Sajid Javid has previously warned that new cases could peak at 100,000 per day.

Johnson's government has sought to encourage a return to normal life over the summer, dropping social-distancing rules and doing away with mandatory mask-wearing. Britain's premier has argued that now is the best time to ease restrictions, with a majority of the population having received two vaccine doses and schoolchildren on their holidays. He has said he'd rather infections rose now than in the fall and winter, when more people are indoors and the National Health Service is under greater strain.

Information for this story was contributed by the staff of The Associated Press and Joe Mayes of Bloomberg News

Print Headline: French lawmakers OK covid passes, shots mandate

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