COVID-19 RECOVERY

French Senate approves use of controversial Covid 'health passes'

The French government says Covid “health passes” are intended to help it manage potential super-spreader events, such as concerts and festivals.
The French government says Covid “health passes” are intended to help it manage potential super-spreader events, such as concerts and festivals. AP - Emilio Morenatti

The French Senate on Tuesday approved the government’s controversial Covid health passes, which will allow people to attend large events, such as festivals. The measure is part of a law that will see France gradually lift its state of emergency.

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Dominated by the right-wing opposition, the Senate voted 221 in favour and 102 against the proposed bill, after making several changes and specifying that health passes must only be required for venues that are unable to respect social distancing.

Initially meant as a document for people leaving or entering the country, the passes are to serve as proof that a person has been vaccinated, has tested negative for Covid-19, or has recovered from the virus. 

French health minister Olivier Véran has said the health passes would be applied to events with crowds over 1,000 people.

Under changes made by the Senate, officials will have restricted access to the medical information contained on the passes, which may be presented either on paper or in digital form.

Discrimination fears

Politicians from both sides of the spectrum have voiced fears the passes will be used as “a condition of freedom”, and will result in discrimination.

Far-right MEP Florian Philippot, founder of the Patriots party, described the measure as a "monstrous apartheid principle" in a Twitter post following the vote.

"Shame on the Senate for approving the health pass ... The people will have to get rid of this tool of shame themselves."

Eric Coquerel, of the far-left La France Insoumise (Unbowed France) party, earlier warned: "We are told this bill will manage our exit from the health crisis, yet it is the most coercive measure of control since the beginning of the crisis.”

The vote approving the passes came the night before restaurants, cinemas and museums across the country opened for the first time in six months. 

The government has said the measure is intended to help it manage potential “super-spreader” events, adding it will not affect a person’s day-to-day life.

France’s National Committee for Scientific Research, a government advisory body, had previously approved the idea of setting up a digital certificate for verifying a person's Covid vaccination and testing status.

The Senate voted that the state of emergency linked to the health crisis would stay in place until 30 June, to include the existing curfew. 

An intermediate regime will replace the state of emergency from 1 July until 15 September, which would allow for the government to impose restrictions if the number of infections goes up again.

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