France to introduce Covid-19 pass for cafes, trains from Aug 9

Protesters in front of the Eiffel Tower on July 24, 2021. The legislation passed by parliament at the weekend has sparked mass protests in France. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - France will from Aug 9 enforce new legislation that will make a health pass compulsory to visit a cafe, board a plane or travel on an inter-city train, the government's spokesman said on Wednesday (July 28).

The legislation passed by parliament at the weekend has sparked mass protests in France but the government is determined to press ahead and make the health pass a key part of the fight against Covid-19.

A valid health pass is generated by two jabs from a recognised vaccine, a negative coronavirus test or a recent recovery from infection. The legislation also makes vaccination compulsory for health-workers and carers.

The pass has already been obligatory from July 21 for visits to museums, cinemas and cultural venues with a capacity of more than 50 people. Government spokesman Gabriel Attal said it would also be obligatory in cafes, restaurants, flights and inter-city trains from Aug 9.

Rising infections driven by the Delta variant, with an average of 19,000 daily cases - 97 per cent higher than a week ago - means that the health situation in France "is continuing to get worse and remains worrying", he added.

Mr Attal's announcement came as data showed 50 per cent of France's adult population were now vaccinated with two jabs. The government's health pass strategy makes vaccination its number-one weapon in the fight against Covid-19.

Mr Attal stressed that there would be a degree of tolerance in the initial phase from Aug 9. Transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said authorities wanted to have "a good level of control without making the lives of travellers difficult".

Ahead of the return to school after summer holidays, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said secondary school and college students would only be pulled from classes when fellow pupils tested positive if they themselves had not been vaccinated.

He said 6,000-7,000 vaccine centres would be deployed around schools to help teenagers get their jabs.

France's health authority on Wednesday approved giving the Moderna jab to 12-17 year olds, after a similar ruling on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in mid-June.

The implementation of the health pass legislation will come four days after the Constitutional Council, France's highest constitutional authority, issues its ruling on the legislation on Aug 5.

The Council has the power to send laws back to the legislature and government for changes but the government appears confident it will receive the green light.

The plans have proven hugely controversial, prompting two weekends of protests that on Saturday saw over 160,000 rally nationwide and dozens arrested.

President Emmanuel Macron said at the weekend that refusing to be vaccinated amounted to "irresponsibility and egoism".

Health officials meanwhile declared a health emergency in the French Caribbean overseas territories of Guadeloupe, Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy Wednesday in order to limit people's movements as cases surge there.

They also remarked that the level of vaccination in Guadeloupe is just 15 per cent.

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