Senate votes to keep ability to impose Covid pass at French borders

MPs had rejected this section of the government’s new bill on managing the seventh wave of the virus

The French Senate has passed a government bill on Covid management – including the possibility of extending the health pass for international travel – on its first reading
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France’s Senate has passed a government bill on managing the seventh wave of Covid on its first reading, re-establishing the possibility of extending the health pass for international travel beyond July 31.

The government had included this in the bill so that it could choose to bring back health pass requirements at French borders if a new Covid variant of concern emerged.

The Senate vote comes after 219 MPs in the Assemblée nationale voted against the option to bring back the health pass beyond this date, compared to 195 who voted for it. Opponents mainly belonged to Rassemblement National, Les Républicains and the left-wing Nupes coalition.

Read more: French MPs block maintaining Covid pass for international travellers

This meant that the measure – detailed in Article 2 of the government’s loi sanitaire bill – had to be removed.

However, 189 senators voted for the bill in its entirety, with 33 – mostly representing the Communist group and Les Républicains – voted against.

Senators from groups including Parti Socialiste, the Greens and Rassemblement démocratique et social européen abstained.

This result means that the measure could still appear in the final iteration of the bill, which must be approved by both houses.

Now, MPs and senators will have to work to find a version of the bill that they both find to be acceptable through a commission mixte paritaire (joint committee).

If they come to an agreement, the amended bill will still have to be voted in by both parliamentary chambers. If they do not, the bill will keep ping-ponging between the Assemblée nationale and the Senate, with changes being made each time.

The rejection of Article 2 by the Assemblée nationale represented a first experience for the government in trying to pass legislation without an absolute parliamentary majority.

Read more: Power shift in France: President Macron needs MPs to compromise

President Emmanuel Macron’s Ensemble alliance gained 245 seats in the legislative elections, 44 short of the 289 needed for an absolute majority.

What is the Covid bill?

The bill is aimed at tackling the seventh wave of Covid, which has caused case numbers to surge in recent weeks, before beginning to decline over the last few days.

Read more: Coronavirus: Daily updates on the situation in France

It contains two main articles. The first, which was approved by the Assemblée nationale, introduces the possibility of extending the use of France’s Covid test database SI-DEP and its system of alerting the close contacts of people with Covid until March 31, 2023.

The second article would give the government the possibility of reintroducing the Covid health pass for travellers in and out of France beyond the initially planned end date of July 31.

A health pass is not a document in of itself but is either proof of being fully vaccinated against Covid, proof of having recovered from it in the last six months (in the form of a previous positive test) or proof of a negative Covid test. The time scale for this depends on what the pass is being used for and on the type of test employed.

The different types of proof can either be printed off or downloaded as a QR code and saved in the TousAntiCovid health pass app.

In practice, travel companies or airlines are often no longer asking to see health passes at this stage.

At this stage, there are no discussions about reintroducing the national Covid vaccine pass (pass vaccinal) in France.

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