France envisages health passes on its borders as Covid cases rise

·3-min read
AFP - -

Faced with a sharp rise in the number of Covid infections in France over the last month, the government is preparing a bill which could introduce health passes on its borders. The health minister has also recommended wearing masks in public transport.

The arrival of subvariants in France has pushed Covid-19 infection rates back up.

An average of more than 50,000 cases per week have been recorded over the last month, and hospitalisations have also increased.

"On 21 June 14,410 patients were hospitalised for Covid-19, including 855 in intensive care, and this week we have a 12 percent increase in ICU patients," Delphine Viriot, epidemiologist with health agency Santé publique France told franceinfo.

While infections are well down on the 350,000 late January, the government is taking precautions.

According to a draft bill, published on the Atlantico website and confirmed by the health ministry, France is looking to introduce a health pass on its European borders, in Corsica and in overseas territories.

Return of the health pass?

The proposed legislation could require travellers over the age of 12 to show proof that they have been vaccinated against Covid, have a recent negative PCR test, or have sufficient immunity after contracting the virus, in order to be allowed to enter France.

Staff in transport services concerned could also be required to hold a valid health pass.

The document shows the government's plan to extend the gathering of digital Covid data (test results and contact cases) through until 31 March 2023.

The government also wants to set up a committee to monitor and anticipate health risks. It would be attached to the ministries of health and research, and provide recommendations directly to the National Assembly and Senate.

The draft has been handed to the Council of State, France's highest court, for discussion before being presented before the council of ministers.

Curbing mechanisms

Government spokesperson Olivia Grégoire said it will allow France to "remain vigilant faced with the possible resurgence of Covid-19" after the health state of emergency ends on 31 July.

Grégoire ruled out including the controversial vaccine pass in the draft legislation.

"Extending the state of emergency is not on the table," she told franceinfo. "What matters is ensuring we are able to intervene if necessary [by] setting up curbing mechanism should the situation evolve, even degenerate, after 31 July."

In the meantime, the government is reminding people, especially the over 60s, of the importance of getting their second booster shot.

Professor Alain Fischer, head of the vaccine strategy council, said on Sunday that 8.5 million people in France who were eligible for a fourth dose have not yet had it, and strongly encouraged them to do so.

Masks recommended

A few days ago Fischer said he was in favour of reintroducing the wearing of masks in public transport, "definitely for vulnerable people and probably for everyone because it's a collective form of protection."

Health Minister Brigitte Bourguignon on Monday also called on all citizens to wear masks again in public transport.

Speaking to RTL radio, she said in light of the highly contagious nature of the current Covid variants she recommended wearing masks in "all closed and crowded areas".

Although masks are no longer mandatory in public places, except health centres and nursing homes, she said that was a question of a "citizen duty" which implied "protecting oneself and others who are more vulnerable".

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