France’s parliament has approved a law that will exclude unvaccinated people from all restaurants, sports arenas and other venues as the central measure of government efforts to protect hospitals amid record numbers of Covid-19 infections driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant.
The National Assembly adopted the law by a vote of 215-58. Centrist president Emmanuel Macron had hoped to push the Bill through faster, but it was slightly delayed due to resistance from politicians both on the right and left and hundreds of proposed amendments.
More than 91% of French adults are already fully vaccinated, and some critics have questioned whether the “vaccine pass” will make much of a difference.
Mr Macron’s government is hoping the new pass will be enough to limit the number of patients filling up strained hospitals nationwide without resorting to a new lockdown.
New confinement measures would strike another blow to the economy, and could also cloud Mr Macron’s chances of re-election in the April 10 presidential vote.
Up until now, a Covid-19 pass has been required in France to go to restaurants, cinemas, museums and many sites throughout the country, but unvaccinated people have been allowed in if they show a recent negative test or proof of recent recovery.
The new law requires full vaccination for such venues, including tourist sites, many trains and all domestic flights, and applies to everyone aged 16 and over.
Some exceptions could be made for those who have recently recovered from Covid-19.
The law also imposes tougher fines for fake passes and allows ID checks to avoid fraud.
More than 76% of French ICU beds are occupied by coronavirus patients, most of them unvaccinated, and some 200 people with the virus are dying every day.
Like many countries, France is in the grip of an Omicron wave, recording more than 2,800 positive cases per 100,000 people over the past week.