The government of France will now require that all citizens, residents, and tourists have a health pass proving that they have either had their COVID-19 vaccination, had a negative test, or recently recovered from the virus in order to enter a restaurant, go shopping, take a long-distance train, or be treated at a hospital.
French President Emanuel Macron had stated in April that he would never require a so-called vaccine passport, but last week he reversed his position, announcing that, in incremental stages beginning this summer, citizens ages 12 and up will be required to show a COVID health pass to partake in public life in an effort to drive up vaccination rates. The information about their health status is held on either a paper certificate or a QR code.
Non-essential business and public establishments like restaurants, cafes, malls, museums and other tourism sites, and theme parks, as well as buses and other public transit services, will require anyone in France to show their health passports for entry. France’s health minister has clarified that grocery stores and churches, synagogues, and mosques are exempt from the mandate.
According to a draft text of the new law, those who fail to present a health pass while entering any covered establishment will face up to six months in prison and could be fined as much as €10,000 (nearly $11,800 USD). Moreover, businesses that allow someone into their establishment without a health pass must pay a fine of €45,000 (or more than $53,000 UDS). The proposal also calls for mandatory isolation for 10 days for anyone who tests positive and for the police to make random checks to make sure they remain in quarantine.
The government is also requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all healthcare employees, along with any volunteers at elderly homes, who will be subject to regular vaccine checks and possible fines or sanctions for noncompliance.
Within 72 hours of Macron’s announcement, millions of French residents had made new vaccination appointments and the nation broke its vaccination record, administering 800,000 shots in one day.
As France observed the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on July 14 and the rights and freedoms the holiday signifies, tens of thousands of Frenchmen took to the streets to protest what they viewed as over-reaching efforts to increase vaccination rates and prevent the spread of the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus. French citizens stated that they feel they are now living under a “dictatorship” while many carried signs that declared “No to mandatory vaccination, vaccination freedom is a right!” and “Covid Pass = Apartheid.”
“It’s totally arbitrary and wholly undemocratic,” one protester told Reuters of the mandates, which will be implemented in stages.
Police reportedly fired gas canisters on the demonstrators after they flipped garbage cans and lit a mechanical digger on fire.
“Our country is facing a surge in the epidemic across our territory, in mainland France as well as overseas,” President Macron said during a televised address last week. “The situation is under control, but if we do not act now, the number of cases will increase significantly and will lead to a rise in hospitalizations.”
“You’ve understood — vaccination is not immediately obligatory for everyone, but we’re going to extend the health pass to the maximum, in order to push a maximum of you to go and get vaccinated,” he added.
After the backlash, Macron’s government backpedaled somewhat, reducing the amount of fines for first-time offenses by business owners to €1500 ($1770 USD) and increasing from there, setting an unspecified “run-in” period to give people a chance to adjust to the new rules, and exempting some malls out of concern for the potential impact on smaller retailers.
To see a modern, supposedly liberal western nation implement health pass requirements for its people to simply go about their daily lives is to see some of the worst concerns realized about how the governing classes would leverage the COVID-19 pandemic to their advantage.
It is no surprise that, even as the delta variant spreads, thousands of French people were still willing to take the supposed risk of gathering in public, vaccine or no, to loudly object to this Orwellian move on the part of their government.
After all, it was just a little over 75 years ago that French citizens were required to present official papers in order to be allowed to move freely — by the occupying Nazi regime.
This comparison may seem over the top, but just look back over the last year. In less than 18 months, France has gone from “temporary” lockdown to a seemingly permanent medical tyranny, undoing all the struggling and suffering that the French people have endured for centuries for the sake of gaining liberté from repressive overlords.
The pandemic will one day pass but this tyrannical grab for power and the resulting loss of individual rights and liberties may not.
Could the same thing happen here in the U.S.? There are certainly many entities who hope so. It may not be long before the pandemic proves to be the greatest stress test our Constitution has ever been subject to.
The question is: Will it hold up under the pressure?