World

French lawmakers ban unvaccinated from public venues with new virus law

January 17, 2022
Lawmakers attend a session at the French National Assembly in Paris.
Lawmakers attend a session at the French National Assembly in Paris.

PARIS — The French parliament approved a law Sunday that will ban unvaccinated people from all restaurants, sports arenas and other venues as part of government efforts to protect hospitals amid a record surge in infections driven by the highly contagious Omicron.

The National Assembly adopted the law by a vote of 215-58. President Emmanuel Macron had hoped to push the bill through faster, but it had a rough ride in parliament with lawmakers both on the right and left finding some of its provisions too tough.

Macron, who is expected to seek a second term in an April presidential election, told Le Parisien paper this month that he wanted to "piss off" unvaccinated people by making their lives so complicated they would end up getting the COVID vaccine.

Thousands of anti-vaccine protestors demonstrated in Paris and some other cities on Saturday against the law, but their numbers were down sharply from the week before, just after Macron's remarks.

More than 91 percent of French adults are already fully vaccinated, and some critics have questioned whether the “vaccine pass” will make much of a difference.

Macron's government is hoping the new pass will be enough to limit the number of patients filling up strained hospitals nationwide without resorting to a new lockdown.

New confinement measures would strike another blow to the economy — and could also cloud Macron’s chances of reelection in the April 10 presidential vote.

Up to now, a COVID-19 pass has been required in France to go to restaurants, movie theaters, museums and many sites throughout the country, but unvaccinated people have been allowed in if they show a recent negative test or proof of recent recovery.

The new law requires full vaccination for such venues, including tourist sites, many trains and all domestic flights, and applies to everyone 16 and over.

Some exceptions could be made for those who recently recovered from COVID-19. The law also imposes tougher fines for fake passes and allows ID checks to avoid fraud.

More than 76 percent of French ICU beds are occupied by virus patients, most of them unvaccinated, and some 200 people with the virus are dying every day.

Like many countries, France is in the grip of the Omicron variant, recording more than 2,800 positive cases per 100,000 people over the past week. — Agencies


January 17, 2022
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