French MPs have voted through an amended version of the government’s bill on Covid epidemic management, which includes the possibility of extending border checks for international arrivals until March 31, 2023.
The bill marks the end of the government’s recourse to lockdowns and curfews, but maintains the state’s power to introduce rules requiring international travellers to present a negative test result when entering France if a new, dangerous variant of Covid were to emerge.
MPs had initially rejected such a measure on their first reading of the bill, but senators had reinstated it, and a joint committee of representatives from the two houses managed to find a compromise.
The potential border controls will not be carried out using a health pass, but will involve a pre-departure test for all travellers, regardless of vaccination status, and will only apply if the situation requires it.
Similar measures could be imposed for journeys to and from overseas departments if their health system “is at risk of being overwhelmed”.
The government would be able to impose this testing requirement for a maximum of two months, after which time Parliament would have to vote on whether or not to maintain it.
Some 184 MPs voted in favour of the bill – with Parti Socialiste and Les Républicains representatives joining the government’s Ensemble coalition – with 149 voting against, including La France Insoumise, Communist and Rassemblement National group members.
The Senate will now hold a vote on the proposed law today (July 26), which will be passed definitively if a majority of senators are in favour.
The Covid border controls currently in place are set to come to an end, along with other measures relating to the pandemic état d’urgence (state of emergency) on July 31.
Reintegrating unvaccinated healthcare staff
The bill also contains an article creating “a path” for the reintegration of unvaccinated workers into the healthcare system, which has had an obligatory vaccination measure in place since September 2021.
However, this would only come into effect if obligatory vaccination was no longer deemed medically justifiable, which is not currently the case.
France’s health service quality regulator, the Haute autorité de santé, issued a statement last week saying that it was “in favour” of maintaining the requirement for now.