The French ‘health pass’ looks set to become a ‘vaccine pass’ in a bid to persuade the few million people who have not been vaccinated against Covid to take the step.
Prime Minister Jean Castex stated that “henceforth only vaccination will be valid in the pass”, assuming the government’s plans are voted through by parliament in January.
The main change is that people would no longer be able to make use of the pass by having a negative Covid test taken in the past 24 hours. It was not clarified if having recovered from Covid in the last six months would also no longer be accepted for the pass.
It means people would essentially be barred from bars, restaurants, cinemas, museums etc without having been vaccinated. It will probably also apply in long-distance coaches and trains, as for the current version of the health pass.
A bill changing the rules is being prepared and expected to be presented on January 5, probably with a full debate by MPs from January 10 before being sent on to the Senate.
It is likely to take a few weeks at least before it becomes law.
In another change, the waiting period to have a booster jab is also expected to be changed from a minimum of five months, to four.
The reason given for the change is the current ‘fifth’ wave of Covid, and in particular the Omicron variant, which many experts believe is more contagious that the previous ‘Delta’ variant. The Prime Minister said Omicron could become dominant in France at the start of 2022.
Mr Castex said hospitals are filling up, with more than 15,400 Covid patients hospitalised according to the latest figures, and around 3,000 in intensive care.
Read more: Latest Covid-19 statistics in France
He added: “It’s not acceptable that the refusal of a few million people to get vaccinated should put at risk the life of the whole country and harm the daily life of an immense majority of people who have made an effort since the start of this crisis.”
He said he made no apology for “putting the burden on unvaccinated people, because the intensive care services of our hospitals are full, essentially, of unvaccinated people”.
To maintain a valid health pass via vaccination all over-65s and people vaccinated with the Janssen single-dose vaccine now need to have had their booster, if they had their previous jabs within the last seven months for the former or two for the latter.
The same rules come in for all adults from January 15.