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France to bring in vaccine passes: What will change and when?

The bill could become law within days although an appeal has been made to France's Conseil constitutionnel, the authority which ensures that constitutional principles are upheld. 'Health' passes will still be accepted in medical settings.

France’s parliament has given final approval to the Covid measures bill which includes the creation of a new vaccine pass system Pic: Petr Kovalenkov / Shutterstock

France’s parliament has definitively adopted a bill seeking to reinforce anti-Covid measures and including turning the health pass into a vaccine pass. 

This refers mainly to removing the possibility of having an active pass by taking a Covid test.

The bill was passed officially by the Assemblée nationale yesterday (January 16), where MPs voted 215 in favour and 58 against the new law.

The vaccine pass system is likely to become law within the next few days, although left-wing party La France insoumise announced that it had gathered the 60 MPs that are needed to appeal to the Conseil constitutionnel, the authority which ensures that constitutional principles are upheld. 

They argue that the new rules infringe people’s personal freedom, right to respect of their private life, freedom to come and go and right to a family life.

Yaël Braun-Pivet, president of the Assemblée nationale’s Commission des Lois, told Franceinfo over the weekend that the bill could come into law by the end of the week, so a week later than the government had initially planned. 

How will the pass work?

The vaccine pass will require people to be fully vaccinated in order to access most of the public services and leisure spaces where a health pass is currently required, including restaurants, bars, museums, cinemas, theme parks and long-distance transport.

Read more: Checklist: Where and when should I use the French Covid health pass?

The only way you will be able to enter these places without having completed a vaccination schedule will be if you have a certificate of recovery from Covid dating from the past six months.

Covid test results, which can currently generate a health pass lasting 24 hours, will no longer be a valid form of proof.

The government is yet to publish details on the vaccine pass format, and whether it will be shown on a different platform to the TousAntiCovid app currently used by most people in France as proof of having the pass.

Are there any exceptions?

If unvaccinated people wish to travel by long-distance transport such as TGV trains or domestic flights, they must be able to demonstrate “pressing grounds in relation to their family or their health” as well as a negative Covid test. The test requirement may be waived in an emergency.

Vaccine passes will not completely replace their health pass predecessors, which will still be valid for entry into hospitals, health centres and retirement homes. 

The vaccine pass will also only be required for people aged 16 or more, with 12 to 15-year-olds allowed to continue using their health passes. 

A certain tolerance is also planned for vaccinated people who have not yet managed to have their booster in the required period (currently seven months after the last dose), who will still be able to make use of tests while waiting for their booster.

Identity checks in vaccine pass establishments

Managers of establishments where vaccine passes will be required will also be allowed to ask to see an identity document to check that it matches up with the customer’s vaccination records. 

This will only happen, however, when there are “serious reasons to believe that the document presented does not correspond with the person presenting it.” 

What penalties will be in place for vaccine pass fraud?

Anyone found using a false health or vaccine pass will face three years in prison and a €45,000 fine, a sentence increased to five years in prison and a €75,000 for those carrying several fake documents.

However, if the person in question gets vaccinated in the month following their offence, their sentence will be reduced. 

Fines can also be handed out to businesses which fail to observe the government requirement for staff to work from home for at least three days a week and four where possible “in all the companies and for all the workers for which this is feasible.”

Businesses which do not follow this rule risk a fine of €500 for each employee concerned, up to a maximum of €50,000. 

Some 79.3% of France’s population has received at least one vaccine dose, according to figures from government-approved information service VaccinTracker.

Yesterday (January 16), 278,129 new Covid cases were reported in France, marking a drop of 6% on last Sunday. This is the first time in three months that case numbers have fallen week on week. 

The number of patients being treated for Covid in intensive care units has also fallen slightly from 3,885 to 3,852, while hospitalisations continue to rise.

Related articles

What changes to the French health pass came into force on Saturday?

Why the Covid vaccine pass bill may be delayed (again) in France

French senators want vaccine pass only for over 18s after first debate

MP’s bid to guarantee voting rights for unvaccinated in France fails

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