France hopes new vaccine pass will speed up vaccination amid Omicron spread

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France hopes that a planned new vaccine pass that will be required to enter public places will persuade more people to get inoculated against COVID-19 as the country faces a rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the health minister said on Saturday.

The government does not want to impose new curfews or lockdowns on people who have been vaccinated, but the threat of Omicron means authorities have to increase pressure on those refusing vaccination, Olivier Veran said on France Inter radio.

“We cannot continue to say that the choice of not getting vaccinated is a choice that has no consequences,” Veran said.

Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Friday the government will propose a bill in parliament in January to change France’s”health pass” into a “vaccine pass”, meaning only vaccinated people will be allowed to enter indoor public places such as bars, restaurants, and cinemas.

Under current regulations, a recent negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination suffices. About 90% of eligible French people have been vaccinated, according to the government.

Veran said the government would ask MPs to also consider making the vaccine pass a requirement on trains and planes, and to make it mandatory to show proof of identity along with the pass. “There is too much fraud,” he said.

Veran said Omicron was currently suspected to account for up to 10% of new coronavirus cases and that could rise to more than 50% early next year.

More countries are dealing with the spread of the Omicron variant:

Far-right Rassemblement National party leader Marine Le Pen said the planned vaccine pass was akin to mandatory vaccination.” French people are losing individual freedoms,” she said on BFM.

In an interview with online media Brut, health minister Iran said a vaccine pass was a covert but effective form of mandatory vaccination.

“Blocking people from going to bars, restaurants, and public places if they are not vaccinated is more efficient than slapping them with a 100 euro fine in the street,” he said.

He added that France cannot continue to live under the threat of successive waves of the epidemic because five million french people refuse to protect themselves.

Following a nationwide ban on New Year’s Eve fireworks announced on Friday, Paris city hall said it had cancelled fireworks and parties on the Champs-ElysÃes planned for 31 December.

In a report released on Saturday, the scientific committee advising the government on COVID-19 recommended: “significant restrictive measures” for 31 December, including possible curfews.

Veran said he expected that next week France’s health authority will approve vaccination for children aged 5 to 11.