France widens health passport requirement to push vaccination

By Maria Diaz Valderrama

Paris, Jul 12 (EFE).- Anyone wanting to buy a coffee in France starting in August will have to have been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

That was the announcement made Monday by President Emmanuel Macron, who also said that all healthcare personnel will be required to get immunized before Sept. 15.

“When science offers us tools to protect ourselves, we have to use them with confidence in reason and progress,” Macron said in a speech to address the worrying spread of the Delta variant of the virus, which is three times more contagious than the original strain and currently accounts for more than half of all Covid-19 cases in France.

The government had cleared the road in recent days for what had seemed to be unavoidable – the need for all workers at hospitals, clinics, retirement homes and other healthcare personnel who come in contact with vulnerable people to be vaccinated prior to Sept. 15.

Starting on that date, monitoring will be implemented and sanctions will be imposed on anyone who has not complied with the requirement.

According to the latest figures, just 45 percent of the staff at homes for the elderly and at long-term care facilities have been fully immunized against Covid-19, although 64 percent of hospital workers gotten themselves fully vaccinated and 81 percent of all self-employed healthcare workers have done so.

“As a result of the evolution of the situation, we will doubtless have to deal with the question of obligatory vaccination for everyone, but I am betting on trust and I’m solemnly calling on all citizens to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” said Macron, opening the door to an even more far-reaching demand.

Although not all French citizens have been vaccinated, the measures announced by Macron leave little room for those who are still refusing to get the jab, especially with the implementation between July 21 and early August of the demand that patrons show a healthcare certificate, or “passport,” to get service in multiple public places.

Starting on July 21, the certificate that is being demanded on Monday to enter discotheques, stadiums and other venues where more than 1,000 people congregate, will also be required to enter theaters for live and film performances and other cultural locations where more than 50 people may be gathered.

In August, this requirement will be expanded to coffee houses, bars, restaurants, shopping centers, long-distance buses and trains, aircraft and medical centers.

“We’re going to expand the health certificate to the max to spur the maximum number of people to get vaccinated,” said Macron.

Starting in the fall, the cost of the Covid diagnostic tests that to date were being fully reimbursed by the French Social Security system will be borne by the public except if a doctor has prescribed them.

The president said that controls on high-risk countries will be strengthened due to the deterioration of the health situation, with temporary obligatory isolation for travelers who have not been vaccinated.

The law for approving this package of measures will be reviewed by the National Assembly on July 21 in a special session.

“If we don’t act starting now, the number of cases is going to continue increasing rapidly and inevitably it will mean an increase in hospitalizations starting in August,” said Macron, who also said that inoculation campaigns will be launched at schools for people older than 12 so that students can all be vaccinated for the coming school year.

Pandemic figures for June showed a clear improvement in the situation in France, where the number of infections fell to an average of about 2,000 per day and with fewer than 8,000 Covid patients hospitalized nationwide.

However, the Delta variant has clearly been spreading in recent weeks and has increased from less than 5 percent of the cases at the beginning of June to 40 percent last week.

The latest vaccination figures, published on Sunday, show that 35.8 million people – 53.4 percent of France’s population – have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 27.4 million (40.6 percent) have been fully vaccinated.

The French government believes that vaccination is the only way to avoid a fourth pandemic wave and a new nationwide lockdown, which would harm economic growth, estimated to be 6 percent this year.

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