After a marathon debate this weekend amid protests scattered through the streets, parliament approved a revised version of the bill that included less severe penalties for non-compliant companies, a slower implementation schedule and other changes that could make the measures less effective in curbing a new impending wave of infections.
For example, companies will not be required to verify the identity of people at the same time as the health record, which will facilitate cheating. Healthcare workers also cannot be fired for refusing to be vaccinated, only suspended without pay. Other types of workers cannot be dismissed for not showing the pass either.
Macron had announced the creation of the health pass this month as a way to get people to get vaccinated, as the vaccination campaign ran out of steam and infections rose again due to the more contagious Delta variant. The idea was that those who were fully vaccinated or who had a negative Covid-19 test could enter public places by showing their health pass.
But the plan met resistance in parliament, especially from the center-right bloc in the Senate, which called some elements “murder for freedom” and disproportionate. On Saturday, about 161,000 people demonstrated in Paris and elsewhere against the health pass, against 114,000 a week earlier, according to estimates by the Ministry of the Interior.
To some extent, Macron’s bet has already paid off as millions of people have signed up for vaccine appointments since the announcement. The number of first doses administered per day has risen to more than 300,000 after having stagnated around 150,000 since the end of June, according to government data compiled by Covidtracker.fr.
About 48% of French people have been fully vaccinated, compared to 61% in Israel, 54% in the UK and 49% in Germany and the US, according to Our World In Data.
With most restrictions lifted on public life and the summer tourist season in full swing, infections have climbed to around 18,000 per day, from 1,800 per day in early July. But deaths and hospital admissions remain low even as some experts predict the wave could hit hospitals next month.
In an interview with RTL radio, Gabriel Attal, government spokesman, rejected the idea that the law had been considerably weakened. “Parliament has brought more progressivity to the sanctions,” he said. “The details have been refined but all the measures announced by the president have still been validated by a broad consensus in parliament. ”
The government argued that the health pass is a “lesser evil” which, with the increase in vaccinations, is the only way to prevent further blockages. “The virus is what kills our freedom, not the health pass,” Attal said. “There is nothing more deadly for freedom than confinements. ”
Macron defended the health pass on Sunday during a trip to Polynesia. “We are all very attached to our freedom. . . but if you infect your father, mother or me, we are victims of your freedom even though you have a way to protect yourself and others.
“It’s not freedom – it’s called being irresponsible and selfish. ”
France’s highest constitutional court is expected to rule on the health passport law on August 5.