France mandates Covid-19 pass for restaurants, shopping malls

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday ordered all French health care workers to get Covid-19 vaccine shots by Sept. 15 and urged all of his compatriots to get vaccinated as soon as possible, to fight resurgent infections that are threatening the country’s economic recovery.

In a televised address, Macron also mandated special Covid-19 passes for anyone who wants to go to a restaurant, shopping mall or hospital or get on a train or plane. To get a pass, people must have proof they’re fully vaccinated, or recently recovered from the virus, or have taken a fresh negative virus test.

The delta variant is driving France’s virus infections back up again, just as the country kicked off summer vacation season after a long-awaited reopening. Some 40 percent of France’s population is fully inoculated.

“Get vaccinated!” was the president’s overall message. He even tweeted a GIF of himself repeating the phrase.

“The country is facing a strong resumption of the epidemic touching all our territory,” Macron said, speaking against the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower. Warning of a new wave of potential hospitalizations in August, he said, “The equation is simple. The more we vaccinate, the less space we leave this virus to circulate.”

A waiter wearing a face mask to protect against coronavirus serves customers at the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris on July 12, 2021.Michel Euler / AP

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But he stopped short of any new lockdown measures, saying “We have to learn to live with the virus.”

Macron said the government would declare a medical state of emergency again starting Tuesday, which allows authorities more freedom to impose virus restrictions.

Most European governments have shied away from mandating vaccinations. But after tens of thousands of people with the virus died in French nursing homes, Macron said vaccination is essential for all workers in health care facilities or nursing homes, and all workers or volunteers who care for the elderly or ailing at home. Those who don’t get vaccinated by Sept. 15 will face potential sanctions or fines, he said.

In France, vaccines are widely available for anyone 12 and over. But interest has ebbed in recent weeks because of vaccine hesitancy, a sense that the virus is no longer a threat, and because some people put off their shots until after their summer vacation. Demand started rising again over the weekend as people braced for Macron’s announcements.

Macron also declared Monday that France will start charging money for some virus tests, which up to now have all been free for anyone on French territory.

France’s virus infections started rising again two weeks ago. The number of people in French hospitals and intensive care units has been declining for weeks, but doctors predict it too will rise when the increase in delta variant infections hits vulnerable populations, as it has in Britain and Spain.