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France: new virus law bans unvaccinated from public venues

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France’s parliament approved a law Sunday that will exclude unvaccinated people from all restaurants, sports arenas, and other venues — the central measure of government efforts to protect hospitals amid record numbers of infections driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

The National Assembly adopted the law by a vote of 215-58. Centrist president Emmanuel Macron had hoped to push the bill through faster, but it was slightly delayed by resistance from lawmakers both on the right and left and hundreds of proposed amendments.

More than 91 per cent of French adults are already fully vaccinated, and some critics have questioned whether the “vaccine pass” will make much of a difference.

Macron’s government is hoping the new pass will be enough to limit the number of patients filling up strained hospitals nationwide without resorting to a new lockdown.

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New confinement measures would strike another blow to the economy — and could also cloud Macron’s chances of reelection in the April 10 presidential vote.

Up to now, a COVID-19 pass has been required in France to go to restaurants, movie theatres, museums and many sites throughout the country, but unvaccinated people have been allowed in if they show a recent negative test or proof of recent recovery.

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The new law requires full vaccination for such venues, including tourist sites, many trains and all domestic flights, and applies to everyone 16 and over.

Some exceptions could be made for those who recently recovered from COVID-19. The law also imposes tougher fines for fake passes and allows ID checks to avoid fraud.

More than 76 per cent of French ICU beds are occupied by virus patients, most of them unvaccinated, and some 200 people with the virus are dying every day.

Like many countries, France is in the grip of the Omicron variant, recording more than 2,800 positive cases per 100,000 people over the past week.

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