Health security bill to be reviewed by MPs as France tackles seventh Covid wave

·3-min read
AFP - ALAIN JOCARD

Members of the French parliament will on Monday evening examine a new health security bill designed to tackle the resurgence of Covid-19, now in its seventh wave. The text aims to extend health data collection systems and set up a border health pass if the health situation so requires.

The bill is a roadmap for how the government intends to handle the Covid situation after the health state of emergency ends on 31 July.

The proposed legislation could reinstate a health pass on France's European borders, in Corsica and in overseas territories.

This would 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 also shows the government's plan to extend the gathering of digital Covid data (such as test results and vaccination information) until March 2023.

Far-right National Rally MPs and certain members of the leftwing alliance NUPES contest the entire bill and intend to challenge the government's overall health policy.

On the far right, Julie Lechanteux had demanded "proof" of the effectiveness of the vaccine health pass suggesting that the "vaccine does not work" in the face of new variants.

Far-left France Unbowed (LFI) condemned the "shortcomings" of the "free tests" policy and lack of air purifiers for schools.

Some elected officials like Davy Rimane (GDR, Guyana) regretted a "stigmatisation" of the French overseas departments.

Subvariants dominate seventh wave

On 8 July, France crossed the 150,000 mark for deaths related to Covid-19, since the start of the epidemic in 2020.

The country has seen a spike in infections since the end of June, due to the presence of the highly contagious Omicron and its subvariants.

National health agency Santé Publique France reported around 120,000 infections per day over the week prior to 5 July when some 200,000 infections were reported over a 24-hour period.

More than 1,000 patients with Covid are in intensive care, while over 17,000 remain in hospital.

Meanwhile, the government is pushing ahead with its "flash mission" for the summer period.

On 30 June, before being appointed, new Minister of Health, François Braun was tasked by President Emmanuel Macron to write 41 proposals to overcome a "high risk" summer in the emergency services.

He recommended regulating admissions by using a paramedical triage system, combined with "systematic prior medical regulation" by the emergency telephone switchboard (Samu).

He also called for budgetary efforts to pay hospital staff, with a revaluation of night work and the 14 July and 15 August public holiday long weekends, as well as a bonus for psychiatric, pediatric and gynecological emergency teams.

Call for second booster

"Normally the health system will be able to cope with this current wave of the BA 5 variant," Professeur Jean-François Delfraissy, president of the scientific council told France Info on Monday.

"There will be tension, but I don't think it will get worse," he went on, adding that the hospital network was none the less "worn-out" and with the holiday season in full swing, health care services could be reduced due to staff taking leave, or infected and unable to work.

On Monday, the European Union health and medicine agencies issued a recommendation for people over 60, and those with health risks, to receive their second booster against the virus.

The second booster shot (generally the equivalent of four shots in total) has been available for people over 80 in France since March, and for over 60s since April. Some 18 million people fit into this category.

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