French parliament gives initial nod to COVID-19 vaccine pass after tumult

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France’s lower house of parliament on Thursday finally passed in a first reading a bill further tightening its Covid measures, after three days of tense debates fueled by President Emmanuel Macron’s warning that he wanted to “piss off” the unvaccinated.

The bill would make it obligatory to have a full course of vaccination against Covid-19 to enjoy basic parts of life including inter-city train travel, attending cultural events or eating out. A recent test or proof of recovery will no longer be valid.

Read the latest updates in our dedicated coronavirus section.

The legislation was expected to pass relatively smoothly through parliament with support from the right-wing opposition, but was initially blocked this week when deputies managed to defeat the government on a procedural vote on continuing debates after midnight.

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Discussions were suspended again in the early hours of Wednesday after a furore caused by Macron’s comments to the Le Parisien newspaper that he would “piss off... until the end” the unvaccinated.

The text was passed early Thursday -- just after 5:30 am (0430 GMT) in a first reading by the National Assembly with 214 votes for and 93 against, with 27 abstentions.

It will now go early next week to the Senate -- the upper house dominated by the right-wing opposition that is expected to make amendments.

That could put into question the government’s target date of January 15 for implementing the new vaccine pass.

Prime Minister Jean Castex told BFM television that he “hoped very much” that the January 15 date could still be kept.

French media have been speculating whether Macron intended to cause the controversy with his coarse language, which was seized on by his rivals in the 2022 presidential election campaign.

Around 53 percent of French are shocked by Macron’s comments, while 47 percent are not, according to an Elabe poll published Wednesday.

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