Health pass becomes ‘vaccine pass’: Details of France’s tough new anti-pandemic bill

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France's lower house on Sunday gave final approval to the government's latest measures to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, including a vaccine pass that will exclude unvaccinated people from restaurants, sports arenas and other venues. FRANCE 24 takes a look at some of the details of the contested new measures.

The current health pass will become a “vaccine pass” for those over 16 years old and tough penalties for fake passes are some of the new measures approved by France's National Assembly over the weekend.

The controversial new bill was voted 215 in favour to 58 against, paving the way for the law to take effect in the coming days.

Here are some of the main provisions of the bill aimed at "strengthening the tools for managing the health crisis".

Proof of vaccination

Article 1 of the upcoming law requires proof of Covid-19 vaccination status for people aged 16 and over, instead of the current health pass, to access leisure activities, restaurants and pubs (except for collective catering), fairs, seminars and trade shows as well as long distance public transport (planes, trains, buses).

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There is however an exception to the transport rule for people without a vaccine pass travelling for "compelling family or health reasons" – a dying relative, for example – provided that a negative test is presented, "except in the case of emergency".

Employees in certain sectors will be required, under certain conditions, to have such a pass.

A simple health pass (a negative test, complete vaccination certificate or recovery certificate) will remain valid for people over 12 years old to access health establishments and medico-social services, except for emergencies, whether for patients or those accompanying them.

Minors between the ages of 12 and 15 will continue to be required to present the current health pass to access leisure activities, restaurants and bars, fairs or interregional public transport.

Booster four months after previous dose

Organisers of political rallies may implement a health pass requirement from participants.

For other halls and stadiums, public access rules may take into account "the health situation" and the "characteristics" of these places, particularly their capacity. Large gatherings are currently limited to a capacity of 2,000 people indoors and 5,000 outdoors.

To obtain the new vaccine pass, a complete schedule (two doses or one, depending on the vaccine) will be required. Starting February 15, a booster dose will be required four months – and not the existing seven months – after the previous dose for the pass to remain valid.

In certain circumstances to be defined by decree, and in the name of "the interest of public health", it may be required to present both proof of vaccination status and a negative test.

The vaccination pass should come into effect in the next few days. But, subject to a ruling by the conseil constitutionnel, France’s highest constitutional authority, local prefects could be able to adapt the date, particularly in the overseas territories where the vaccination rate is lower.

Tough anti-fraud controls

Following alarming reports of unvaccinated people buying fake health passes, the new law has tough provisions to crack down on offenders.

In addition to the police, managers of venues and activities subject to the pass – such as cafés and restaurants – will be able to check these passes, but under very restricted conditions. So, "when there are serious reasons to believe that the document presented is not related to the person presenting it", "an official document with a photograph" may be requested.

Presenting a pass belonging to someone else and passing on a pass to someone else to be used fraudulently will now be an offense punishable by a fixed fine of 1,000 euros for the first offence, compared with the current 135 euros.

Possession of several false passes will be punishable by five years in prison plus a fine of 75,000 euros.

If a person commits to a vaccination program, there may be no penalty for a false pass.

For owners and operators of establishments requiring a vaccine pass, failure to implement the measures would make them liable to a 1,000-euro fine.

Companies that fail to comply with work-at-home rules may be hit with an administrative fine of up to 500 euros per employee, up to a maximum of 50,000 euros.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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