Health & Wellness

French constitutional court to scrutinize law on health pass


PARIS (AP) — A special French court is set to decide Thursday whether a new law that takes effect next week and would only allow access to cafes, restaurants, long-distance travel — and in some cases hospitals — for those with a COVID-19 health pass is in line with the country’s constitution.

The legislation was sped urgently through parliament last week as virus infections soar, fed by the highly contagious delta variant which now accounts for most cases in France.

Polls show a majority of the French support the pass. But vocal critics claim that it restricts basic freedoms by imposing limits on their movements outside home and implicitly renders vaccinations obligatory. Opponents have demonstrated around the country for the past three Saturdays, with more protests expected this weekend.

The Constitutional Council examining the law is a special court which, among other things, reviews the constitutionality of legislation.

Dozens of protesters have been holding sit-ins in front of the Council building in Paris for several days, and on Thursday police chased some out of a nearby square.

The health pass is issued to people either vaccinated against COVID-19 vaccinations, or who have proof of recent recovery from the infection, or a recent negative test. It has been in effect since July 21 for cultural and recreational venues, including cinemas, concert halls and theme parks with capacity for more than 50 people. But the new law to go into effect on Monday vastly extended its application.

The law requires the special pass for entry to cafes and restaurants, including outdoor seating, rest homes and hospitals — for visitors and patients who don’t need urgent attention. The pass is also required for long-distance travel by train, plane or bus. And the law stipulates that all health care workers be vaccinated by Sept. 15.

Many restaurant owners say it is not their job to enforce the law, checking each client for a pass. Some health professionals have voiced fears that patients in need of non-urgent treatment could suffer.

“Quite a few people have told us they wouldn’t be coming back once the health pass is implemented,” said Vanessa Shi, co-owner of a noodle restaurant near the Champs-Elysees Avenue.

“We’ve been insulted on several occasions, with people calling us sell-outs and worse for saying we would implement the measure,” she said. “But with the bills we’ve racked up during the pandemic … it’s a matter of survival for us.”

More than 28,700 new infections were reported as of Wednesday evening, a steep climb from one month ago. The pandemic has claimed more than 112,000 lives in France.


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