French government to give itself powers to extend COVID health pass to summer 2022

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The French government is mulling introducing a bill that would allow it to maintain the use of the COVID health pass until next summer, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

Gabriel Attak told reporters after a cabinet meeting that a bill to that effect is to be presented to ministers on October 13.

A COVID health pass, attesting that its holder is either fully vaccinated, has recently tested negative or has recovered from the disease over the past few months, is currently required to access cafes and restaurants as well as long-distance public transport across France.

Lawmakers backed its use in late July but worked in the bill then that any extension past November 15 would need their approval.

“We must give ourselves the means to have the possibility of resorting to measures, if necessary, to protect the French,” Attal said. “Our wish, our hope is that this will not be the case.”

The possibility of maintaining its use until the summer would see it “bypass the presidential election deadline” in order for the government to be able to quickly respond to “an epidemic rebound”, Attal said.

French voters will head to the polls to elect their president in early April for the first round, followed by the second round two weeks later.

Due to the campaign, parliament is supposed to finish its work in public session at the end of February, although it can sit again if necessary.

“Our wish is always to have the least constraints for the French. The issue for us is not to say that we are going to prolong constraints indefinitely” and “we obviously have reasons to be optimistic thanks to vaccination,” Attal said.

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“But the 18 months that have passed have shown us that we must always remain cautious and vigilant,” the spokesman added.

Attal confirmed that a draft bill has already been sent to the Council of State for review but brushed aside opposition criticism that the government is stifling the debate by adding that there will be “a parliamentary discussion”.

The use of the COVID health pass is to be extended to children aged 12 to 17 from Thursday.

The requirement, seen as a measure to boost vaccination, was met with resistance with weekly protests held across the country since it was announced.

More than 60,000 demonstrated on Saturday against the health pass — a number that has been steadily declining from peaks of more than 200,000 in August.

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