The French Senate has approved the government’s new vaccine pass, a week after president Emmanuel Macron caused outrage by saying the policy was part of his efforts to “piss off” the unjabbed.
The bill means that unvaccinated people will soon be unable to go to venues such as cafes, restaurants and to board long-distance public transport.
Under the current vaccine pass, they can show a recent negative Covid-19 test result to access these facilities and services. However, this option will be scrapped by the latest legislation.
In the early hours of Thursday morning, France’s upper house approved the measure by 249 votes to 63, with 26 abstentions.
Prior to the vote, senators had modified the government’s bill so that the health pass only applies to over-18s and can only be used when hospitalisations are above 10,000. There are currently around 24,000 Covid-19 patients in French hospitals, according to health ministry data.
Representatives from the Senate and the National Assembly will meet later on Thursday at the Palais Bourbon in an attempt to agree on a final version of the text. If they succeed, votes will take place in both chambers this week.
The campaign from Mr Macron’s La Republique En Marche to put pressure on the unvaccinated comes as France struggles to contain a fifth wave of the virus.
Speaking to Le Parisien last week, the French president took aim at anti-vaxxers, saying “lies and stupidity” were democracy’s greatest enemy. His government would make life more difficult for the unvaccinated by reducing their access to social activities “as much as possible”, he added.
His opponents were quick to criticise the remarks, with the far-right politician Marine Le Pen claiming they were “unworthy of his office”.
France currently has the highest number of coronavirus infections in Europe. A total of 361,719 new Covid-19 cases and a further 246 deaths from the virus were announced on Wednesday.
More than 10,000 classes have had to close because of outbreaks in schools, leading teachers to demand greater Covid-19 protections from the authorities.
Amid growing discontent, up to 75 per cent of French teachers are going on strike on Thursday, according to the SNUIPP teacher’s union.
"The situation since the start of the January school year has created an indescribable mess and a strong feeling of abandonment and anger among school staff," it said.
Agencies have contributed to this report
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