France deploys new COVID-19 health pass as infections increase | Coronavirus pandemic News
Mandatory certificates come into effect for visitors to cultural venues as the government tackles the fourth wave of cases.
France has rolled out a new COVID-19 health pass amid an increase in infections that has triggered warnings that the country is in the grip of a fourth wave of the pandemic.
Starting Wednesday, people wishing to visit cinemas, museums, sports matches and other cultural venues will now need to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination, a negative test or a recent recovery from the virus.
The health pass will be extended in August to customers of restaurants, cafes and shopping centers.
The certification system is among various new measures announced by President Emmanuel Macron on July 12 to reduce the transmission of the coronavirus, representing some of the strictest anti-COVID measures in force in Europe.
The first rules of the COVID-19 pass were implemented by decree. Lawmakers will be able to vote on the planned extension of the regime to cover other parameters.
Macron’s strategy will also see vaccinations become mandatory for health workers from September 15.
The fourth wave seizes France
The health pass came into effect after Health Minister Olivier Veran on Tuesday warned of an unprecedented increase in COVID-19 cases nationwide, with more than 18,000 new infections recorded during of the previous 24 hours.
“This means that we have an increase in the spread of the virus of around 150% over the past week: we have never seen this,” Veran told the French parliament.
The rise in the number of cases has been fueled by the rapid spread of the highly infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus, first detected in India.
Authorities on Monday warned that the rise meant France had officially entered a fourth wave of infections.
But the government’s response to the crisis has angered sections of French society, with critics claiming Macron’s plan undermines the freedom of choice of those who do not want to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
More than 100,000 people demonstrated across France on Saturday to protest against the health pass, denouncing a “dictatorship” which would discriminate against those opposed to the injection.
The Interior Ministry said 137 marches took place across the country, bringing together nearly 114,000 people in total, including 18,000 in Paris.
Macron urges people to get vaccinated
Despite the strength of the protests, an Ipsos-Sopra Steria poll released on Friday found that more than 60% of French people agreed with compulsory vaccination for health workers, as well as the requirement for a health pass in some public places.
Some 56% of the French adult population had received a single dose of a vaccine on Saturday and 45% had been fully vaccinated.
The government hopes that widespread vaccination will soften the effect of the ongoing wave of infections, which could still put considerable pressure on hospitals or require further closures.
In a televised address last week, Macron urged all his compatriots to get vaccinated as soon as possible to fight the resurgence of infections, which threatens the country’s economic recovery after the pandemic.
“The country is facing a strong resumption of the epidemic affecting our entire territory,” said Macron, speaking against the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower.
“We must go towards the vaccination of all French people, it is the only way to a normal life,” he added.