PARIS • All health workers in France must get Covid-19 jabs and anyone wanting to get into a cinema or board a train will need to show proof of vaccination or a negative test under new rules announced by President Emmanuel Macron on Monday.
Unveiling sweeping measures to combat a surge in infections, Mr Macron said vaccination would not be compulsory for the general public for now but stressed that restrictions would focus on those who are not vaccinated.
"We must go towards vaccination of all French people, it is the only way towards a normal life," Mr Macron said in a televised address to the nation.
Health Minister Olivier Veran said health workers would not be allowed to go to work and would not be paid if they are not vaccinated against Covid-19 by Sept 15.
"By Sept 15, all health workers must have had their second dose," he told LCI television, without saying what sort of controls would be in place to impose the measure.
Mandatory vaccination, even for healthcare workers and other professionals who come into contact with people vulnerable to Covid-19, is not widespread in Europe, and Mr Macron had previously ruled it out for France.
But a slowdown in vaccination rates and a sharp upturn in new infections due to the highly contagious and now dominant Delta variant have forced a government rethink for health workers.
Vaccination will also be compulsory for people working in retirement homes.
"A new race against the clock is on," Mr Macron said.
In a first sign that the new set of measures might be convincing more people to get vaccinated, Doctolib, the website where many go to book their Covid-19 jab, was swamped after Mr Macron's speech, with Covid-19 data tracker Guillaume Rozier saying tens of thousands of people had rushed to get an appointment.
Mr Macron said a health pass required to attend large-scale events or to go clubbing will now be used much more widely, including to enter restaurants, cinemas and theatres. It will also be required to board long-distance trains and planes from the start of next month, giving a further incentive for people to get the shot.
"We will enforce restrictions on those who are not vaccinated rather than on everyone," he added. He made clear that this move, as well as the fact that Covid-19 tests will from October be free only for those with a medical prescription, was meant to boost vaccination.
The health pass provides proof that a person has either been vaccinated against the coronavirus or has recently had a negative polymerase chain reaction test for Covid-19.
France has gone from an average of more than 400,000 first injections per day at the end of May to about 165,000 per day now.
Average number of first vaccine doses given per day in France now. The figure was more than 400,000 at end-May.
Some 53.1 per cent of French people have had a single dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and 40.6 per cent are fully inoculated - not enough to stop the virus' spread.
The fast-spreading Delta variant risks undermining economic recoveries if allowed to spiral out of control, forcing some governments to rethink their Covid-19 strategies just as citizens look forward to summer holidays.