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An increasing number of European governments are planning to prevent unvaccinated people from being able to attend hospitality venues such as bars and restaurants this summer, as Emmanuel Macron celebrates the fruits of the recent announcement of the policy in France.
France on Monday passed the threshold of 40 million people having received at least one vaccine dose – close to 60% of the population. Macron tweeted: “Together we will defeat the virus. We continue!”
A range of policies are being tried out across Europe as governments seek to push reluctant people into receiving jabs. In Sweden, a study being carried out by the University of Lund will examine whether the offer of a redeemable voucher worth £17 can convince people to take the plunge. In the Netherlands, batches of Hollandse nieuwe, or new-season Dutch herring, are being distributed to vaccination centres as an incentive.
But by the far the most impressive results following a government intervention on vaccine uptake are being enjoyed in France, where record numbers have been administered in the two weeks since Macron announced his intention to legislate to limit access to hospitality to benefit those who are fully vaccinated, in possession of a negative PCR test or able to prove that they have recovered from infection.
An estimated 161,000 people had protested over the weekend as parliamentarians in Paris sought to find a compromise agreement on the so-called health pass. But it was passed at 12.45am on Monday after 60 hours of debate and a last-minute deal between the national assembly and the senate.
The new pass will be required to attend restaurants, bars, museums, cinemas and large public gatherings from August, but not shopping malls, after the government was pressured into dropping that aspect of the legislation. Local prefects will instead have the powers to impose the rule on large shopping centres if they feel it is necessary.
The pass will not be required for 12- to 17-year-olds until the end of September. Another compromise means health workers and restaurant and bar staff in France will not be sacked if they remain unvaccinated, but they can be suspended without pay.
In the past fortnight, 4m jabs have been administered in France with the health ministry reporting on Monday that 33.2 million people – close to 50% of the population – were fully vaccinated.
On Monday, Ireland allowed hospitality venues to reopen their indoor facilities to those customers holding the EU’s digital certificate that proves their vaccine status or a record from the country’s Health Service Executive.
From 6 August, a similar “green pass” will be required in Italy to access hospitality businesses, public swimming pools, gyms and sports halls, sports events, concerts, fairs and cultural venues such as museums, cinemas, and theatres.
There is no national policy in Spain but the region of Galicia is mandating a vaccination certificate or a negative Covid-19 test for indoor access to hotels and restaurants. In Belgium access to outdoor events with more than 1,500 people will be limited from 13 August to those carrying a vaccine certificate.
Boris Johnson has said he intends to limit access to nightclubs in England from September to those who can prove that they are fully vaccinated.
In Germany, politicians are in the thick of a debate over how and whether pressure to get jabbed should be increased on people who have yet to be vaccinated.
Just under half (49.4%) of Germans are fully jabbed and 61% have had one dose. But the vaccine campaign has slowed down over recent weeks, with reports of many having missed appointments for second jabs in order to go on holiday, leading experts to warn that herd immunity is nowhere near being reached.
At the weekend Helge Braun, the chief of staff of the chancellor, Angela Merkel, suggested those not vaccinated should not be directly penalised but that people who were should have distinct advantages.
He told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper unvaccinated people should be obliged to reduce their contacts, and that for them “visits to restaurants, cinemas and stadiums” should be restricted because of the high risk.
Wading into what is inevitably going to be a leading issue in the run-up to September’s federal election, Armin Laschet, the leading candidate for the Christian Democrats, spoke out against making vaccines obligatory.
“Obliging people to get a vaccine is not something I can go along with,” he said in a television interview. “And neither can I support the idea of indirectly pressurising people to get a jab.”
He said he might be prepared for a rethink if the number of vaccinated people remained low in the autumn.
Meanwhile, Markus Söder, the leader of Bavaria, suggested increasing pressure on unvaccinated people by obliging them to pay for tests to prove their Covid status, which are currently free.
Karl Lauterbach, the health spokesperson for the Social Democrats, said due to an infection rate that has been rising for the last three weeks, by autumn it will no longer be possible to avoid “limiting access to spaces where lots of people come together, to those who are either recovered or vaccinated”, becaue of the high level of false negative test results.