French parliament approves Macron’s new ‘vaccine pass’

France’s parliament has approved President Emmanuel Macron’s plans for a “vaccine pass” to help curb the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus after three days of tumultuous debates, which were sparked by Macron’s comment that he wants to “annoy” the unvaccinated.

The bill passed on Thursday in the parliament with 214 votes against 93, and 27 abstentions, after an all-night session. It still needs to pass the Senate, which is due to review it early next week. Macron’s government wants the new measures to take effect on January 15, but implementation will likely be delayed as the debate was held up in the Assembly.

The legislation came amid a storm of controversy after Macron told Le Parisien newspaper earlier this week that he wanted to make the lives of those refusing the COVID-19 vaccine so complicated by squeezing them out of public places that they would end up getting jabbed. Macron said nearly 90 percent of the French population had already been vaccinated and thus were eligible for the health pass. He said it was “only a very small minority who are resisting. How do we reduce that minority? We reduce it – sorry for the expression – by annoying them even more.”

Macron’s coarse language barely three months before a presidential election was widely seen as politically-calculated, tapping into an intensifying public frustration against the unvaccinated.

Polls, meanwhile, indicate that a large majority of French voters are growing evermore frustrated with the pandemic and back the vaccine pass as an effective means to end it, and of those who oppose it, very few are likely to cast their ballot for Macron.

Under the bill, people over 16 — and not over 12 as the government had initially sought — will be required to show proof of being vaccinated to access restaurants and bars, cultural venues, or inter-regional public transport. A negative COVID-19 test will no longer be sufficient, except for access to health facilities and services.

In recent months, France has seen weekly street protests against virus-related restrictions and vaccine requirements.

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