The French National Assembly has formally adopted a law which will enable the government to require the use of Covid health passes until July 31, 2022.
The government could abandon the passes before this time, but the law enables it to impose the requirement at any time until that date.
The approval is part of wider legislation related to extending the country’s state of health emergency in its fight against Covid.
The legislation was passed on Friday (November 5) by 118 votes to 89, with members of opposition parties objecting to the extension of health pass restrictions, accusing President Emmanuel Macron of “authoritarianism.”
France’s Senate, nearly half of which is made up of members of right-wing party Les Républicains, refused on Thursday to debate the bill for a second time.
On its first reading, senators had attempted to change the health pass end date to February 28, after which time Parliament will effectively be suspended for the presidential elections.
Health pass requirements were first made possible through a law adopted in May, which initially authorised the use of the pass in public spaces such as restaurants, cafés and cinemas until November 15.
The new bill will serve to extend the possibility of using this measure until July 31, 2022, but it does not mean that it will definitely be enforced until this date. If the situation allows, the health pass could be abandoned earlier.
This will depend on criteria including the vaccination rate, the positivity rate of Covid tests carried out and the number of Covid patients in hospital intensive care units.
Over the past week, France’s infection rate has risen above 60 cases per 100,000 people, while the positivity rate of tests being carried out has reached 2.8% as of November 7, according to figures from Santé publique France.
President Emmanuel Macron is due to provide a televised “update on the health situation” on Tuesday (November 9) at 20:00.
While the health pass remains in place, the punishment imposed on anyone caught falsifying or fraudulently obtaining a pass has been put up to five years in prison and a €75,000 fine as opposed to the current penalty of three years in prison and a €45,000 fine.
Along with health pass rules, the new law also enables the government to remain in its “health crisis exit plan” (sortie de l’état d’urgence sanitaire) which has also been in place since May.
This plan gives the Prime Minister Jean Castex the power to prohibit or limit public movement, gatherings and access to certain places, including transports, cafés and restaurants, if necessary.
It is under this legislation that mask-wearing can be made obligatory, or that the government can decide to reintroduce lockdown restrictions.
Finally, the bill voted in on Friday will authorise headteachers to find out the vaccination status of their pupils as well as their PCR test results and lists of their close contacts.
This measure has been met with opposition, as some claim that it “breaches the patient confidentiality” of pupils. However, the government argues that it will make it easier for teachers to manage Covid outbreaks and facilitate school vaccination programmes.