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COVID: France introduces health pass for cultural venues

July 21, 2021

French President Emmanuel Macron is being accused of using a heavy-handed approach to curb the spread of coronavirus infections.

Hundreds hold up banners to protest health pass in Paris
Critics accuse Macron of 'health dictatorship' over new health passImage: Sadak Souici/Le Pictorium/MAXPPP/dpa/picture alliance/dpa

People in France wishing to go to the cinemas, museums, sporting matches, or other cultural venues will have to certify that they've either tested negative for COVID, or have been fully vaccinated against it, by producing a so-called health pass.

The measure, meant to curb a rise in COVID infections,  has sparked protests across the country since being announced on July 12.

French President Emmanuel Macron first made it mandatory for health workers to produce a health pass, saying that it would be extended to other places in the days to come.

In spite of anger over the pass, a record 3 million people registered for vaccination within 72 hours of the announcement of the new rules.

Is the health pass compulsory?

The health pass will be compulsory for those wishing to enter cultural venues with a capacity of more than 50 people. From August 1, it will be compulsory for people to produce the pass if they want to dine in restaurants, go to cafes, or shop at malls.

Once inside the cultural venue, people are allowed to take off their masks. Elsewhere, like in shops or on public transportation, people have to keep their masks on.

Health Minister Olivier Veran warned that 18,000 cases, as reported on Tuesday, was an unprecedented increase in infections. "We have an increase in the spread of virus of around 150% in the last week: we've never seen that," he told parliament as it began a debate on stricter restrictions.

The initial pass was implemented by decree, whereas lawmakers will vote on its extension to restaurants and on public transport.

Why is there so much anger over it?

Emmanuel Macron had told local media in April that there "will never be a right of access that discriminates among the French." 

However, since coming under pressure given the rise in COVID infections, Macron had to introduce a measure that has been billed as heavy-handed by many.

rm/sri (AFP, AP)