France’s Health Minister Olivier Véran said that 10% of people in France are currently close contacts of confirmed Covid cases as he announced that there were over 208,000 new cases recorded yesterday (December 29).
As he presented plans to transform the health pass into a vaccine pass to the French Parliament’s Commission des Lois, Mr Véran said that daily infection numbers could reach 250,000 by the beginning of January.
“We are facing two enemies,” Delta, which is still present in France, and “Omicron, which I can no longer describe as a wave, but as a tidal wave,” he said.
With one in 10 people now contacts of Covid cases, Mr Véran added that unvaccinated people “were unlikely to escape [being infected], as the virus is circulating too quickly.”
The recent surge in cases and therefore close contacts has caused long queues at test centres and pharmacies, with one Lyon pharmacist, Damien Trillou telling Franceinfo that: “The huge majority of these people are contact cases or have symptoms themselves.
“We regularly find positive cases even in people who come to get tested just as a precaution.”
Vaccine pass debate begins
France’s vaccine pass idea, which was initially due to come into force (if approved) at the end of January but is now being brought forward, was examined by the Commission des Lois yesterday. It will be debated by the Assemblée nationale from Monday (January 3).
The bill will then be passed onto the Senate from Wednesday (January 5) and could be made law from January 15.
By converting the health pass into a vaccine pass, the government hopes to further encourage those who have not yet been vaccinated to do so.
“Although vaccination and the health pass have so far allowed us to limit the consequences of the epidemic on the healthcare system, it remains under significant pressure, as procedures which were postponed during the previous waves must now be rescheduled,” the government said.
If the vaccine pass becomes law, it will no longer be possible for anyone over the age of 12 to use a Covid test result in order to enter public spaces such as bars and restaurants.
However, people who have had just one or two doses and are waiting to complete their vaccination schedule may be able to take a test to create a temporary vaccine pass, Franceinfo reports.
In places where people are likely to come into very close contact with others and where “the public health interest and the current situation” justify it, the government is seeking to reserve the right to demand several documents.
Bill contains ability to ask for a test in addition to full vaccination
If made law, the vaccine pass bill could also allow for a ‘full vaccination plus test’ requirement if the government decided that this were necessary.
The fine levied on people possessing false passes would be increased from €750 to €1,000 in the case of a real pass being used by someone else.
Those carrying completely fake passes could risk five years in prison and a fine of €75,000. If in doubt over the authenticity of a vaccine pass, venue staff would be able to ask for further identification.
Nearly 53 million people in France, or 78.3% of the population, have received at least one dose of the vaccine according to government-approved information service VaccinTracker. Some 76.7% have had all the required doses.
There are still more than five million eligible people who have not been vaccinated, and the government has said that among them there are more than one million people judged to be at risk from the virus.