President Emmanuel Macron's restrictive measures targeting unvaccinated people came into effect on Wednesday as France entered its fourth epidemic wave amid worrying acceleration of the Delta variant.
Macron Announces New COVID Restrictions
People who want to visit culture venues or go to amusement parks, swimming pools and gyms in France must now present a certificate which proves they have been vaccinated against COVID-19, test negative, or recently recovered form the respiratory illness.
Starting from early August, the health pass will also be needed to enter restaurants and bars and for long-distance train and plane journeys, in a move to encourage people to get vaccinated. However, the document would not be required in schools when the academic year begins in September.
"What is a health pass? It is an incentive to vaccinate. It is the way to keep open as much as possible places that could have been closed if the epidemic flares up," Prime Minister Jean Castex said, pointing out that the COVID-19 cases jumped by 140 percent in a week.
In this context, five million vaccine appointments would be available in the next two weeks to accelerate the vaccination pace. The Macron administration aims 50 million first vaccine doses by the end of August, up from an initial target of 40 million shots, which would be reached later this month.
Despite protests against the health pass, lawmakers started on Wednesday afternoon to debate the government's new health bill which also includes an obligation of 10-day isolation for people who test positive for COVID-19.
Any offender who refuses to respect the health pass rules risks to be fined up to US$1,767 while a legal person has to pay US$8,848 at the first breach. At the third breach, it can go up to one year in jail and a fine of US$10,616 for a natural person, and one year in jail and US$53,082 for a legal person.
"It's a question of freedom today, for the freedom to find a stable and serene life, for the freedom not to see our intensive care services saturated," Health Minister Olivier Veran said, adding that "all models... predict an epidemic peak at the end of the summer which would overwhelm our hospital services if nothing is done."