The French Senate (the final hurdle for the government to enact this) voted in favor of passport vaccination on Sunday night, meaning it will likely take effect on January 21, 2022, though the exact date has yet to be confirmed. Another sanction provided for by the law adopted at second reading? A fine of 1000 € from the first breach if the operator of a place open to the public does not check the passport. The current health passport will become a “vaccination passport” for people over 16, and severe penalties for fake passports are some of the new measures approved by the French National Assembly this weekend. The law transforms the health pass into a vaccination pass on January 24, 2022 for daily activities (restaurants, cinemas …), expands the possibilities of control and strengthens the sanctions in case of fraud at the pass. The state of health emergency is also extended in several overseas territories until 31 March 2022. The vaccination certificate, valid on 24 January 2022, is required in almost all places where the medical card was required: access to bars and restaurants, leisure (cinemas, museums, theatres, sports venues, sports halls and shows, etc.), fairs and exhibitions, large shopping centres by decision of the prefects and interregional transport. In practice, only vaccinated people over the age of 16 have access to these places, events and services. A negative Covid-19 test (PCR or antigen) is no longer enough. Professionals working in these places and services are also concerned and therefore have the duty to vaccinate themselves. However, the French government went even further and converted this health passport into a vaccination certificate (the vaccination pass). After these new steps, people need to be vaccinated to reach the same events, transport networks and locations – a negative Covid-19 test result is no longer enough. If the examination of the text has been postponed indefinitely, the idea of a “health passport” remains in the air, to the chagrin of all those who denounce the emergence of a “health dictatorship”.
For critics, the measure would amount to making a vaccine mandatory, something the government has repeatedly said it would not; It would also violate respect for freedoms or even personal data. But could this “vaccine passport” only legally see the light of day in France? In the midst of the epidemic, the question is all the more explosive as 59% of French people do not intend to be vaccinated, according to an Ifop poll conducted for Le JDD at the end of November. Penalties for passport fraud will be strengthened. People who present a passport that belongs to someone else or who lend them their passport, as well as professionals who do not check the passport, now risk a lump sum fine of €1,000 from the first offence. The health passport introduced by the law of 31 May 2021, extended to many activities of daily living by the law of 5 August 2021 and extended until 31 July 2022 by the law of 10 November 2021 will be replaced by a vaccination certificate for people over 16 years of age and adults (the original text planned to make it mandatory from the age of 12). The law also provides for the possibility of requiring a double passport (cumulation of a vaccination certificate and a negative test) for certain places and activities. A decree must be published. In a decision of 21 January 2022, the Constitutional Council conditionally excluded this double passport for access to interregional transport. French Senate adopts amended law converting health passport into stricter “vaccination passport” The government also wants to wage war on criminals. Although law enforcement is authorized to check these passports, managers of places subject to the vaccination record can also check the door opener, but subject to well-defined conditions.
Therefore, “if there are substantial grounds to believe that the document does not apply to the person submitting it … an official document with his photo” could be requested. The health pass continues to apply for children aged 12 to under 16. The sanitary pass is maintained for access to hospitals, clinics, residential facilities for dependent elderly people (EHPAD) and retirement homes, except in cases of emergency. The medical passport may also be maintained for a limited period in certain areas by decision of the prefects (approved by the Prime Minister) “if local circumstances justify it” (for example in case of low vaccination of the overseas population). To access inter-regional transport, passengers who do not have a vaccination certificate may present a negative test if there are compelling family or health reasons (for example, to attend the funeral of a person close to their family or to help an elderly, sick or disabled relative, or in the case of divorced or separated parents, to pick up or accompany their minor children). The reason for the displacement can be proven by any means). Finally, a change in the run-up to the presidential elections allowed organizers of political rallies to apply for a health card. This provision has been criticized by the Constitutional Council for lack of structure (in terms of health risk, temporal and local circumstances, etc.). The Council stipulates that organizers of political meetings can always take other precautions (limiting the number of participants, distributing masks, ventilating rooms, etc.). The French government has now made vaccination mandatory to access cultural events, theme parks, ski lifts, restaurants, bars and most means of long-distance transport – the law was passed on Sunday 16 January and is expected to come into force on Friday 21 January 2022.
The Scientific Council of Covid-19 issued a favourable opinion on the draft law on 24 December 2021. It considered that the conditions for obtaining the vaccination passport should take into account possible changes in the vaccination strategy. However, he recalled that the vaccination record “must be applied in a consistent and proportionate manner if necessary, taking into account a possible improvement in the health situation over time”. Second pitfall on the way: the “health passport” cannot be introduced as long as there is inequality between citizens in access to the vaccine. However, the government`s vaccination campaign strategy focuses on the elderly in need of care, followed by those with age-related or chronic risk factors, and then on the rest of the population, according to age groups, all spread over several months. What about access to health and medico-social structures? Except in an emergency, people over 12 years of age must present a simple health card (full vaccination program, negative Covid test or recovery certificate) to be admitted. The measure applies to both sick people and their relatives. In addition, the mere fact of having a false passport is punishable by three years in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros. Until now, sanctions were reserved for establishing, exercising or using false passports. The government also plans to severely punish people who hold multiple false passports. They face five years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros.
However, the creation of a “health passport” faces a first major obstacle. “Banning unvaccinated people from accessing a long list of places or services – without distinguishing between public and private places – is equivalent to mandatory vaccination,” explains Xavier Bioy. Problem: Vaccination against Covid-19 is not mandatory. However: “We must first decide that vaccination is mandatory and then decide that there are sanctions for those who do not get vaccinated.” In the run-up to presidential elections, a health card may be required for political meetings. With regard to sites and stadiums, the law passed by Parliament stipulates that the rules of public access will be adapted taking into account the “health situation” of the moment and the “characteristics” of these sites. In addition, an Order in Council could require the presentation of both a certificate of vaccination status and a negative test in the name of “public health interest.” Faced with the outcry caused as soon as it was introduced, the government repackaged its bill on health emergencies. Because the text was perceived as a desire to establish a “vaccine passport”, at the time when the vaccination campaign against Covid-19 began in France, at the end of December. It must be said that the bill provides for “making the movement of people, their access to transportation or certain places, as well as the exercise of certain activities, subject to the presentation of the results of a negative screening test or to the “follow-up of preventive treatment, including the administration of a vaccine or curative treatment”.