A Covid pass takes France by storm (Opinion)


Sunday, during the final of the European 3 X 3 basketball Cup, each of us had his pass scanned before being allowed to enter an outdoor arena at the foot of the Trocadero. We were packed side by side, but no one seemed too concerned.

With the exception of the weekend demonstrators, France wholeheartedly passed a new law, passed in July, which requires every adult to present a “sanitary pass” before entering places like restaurants, cafes, museums, theaters and sports stadiums. While President Joe Biden has told companies they need to enforce vaccination mandates, French President Emmanuel Macron has successfully instituted vaccine passports for the entire country.
On my first visit to France in 18 months, it became clear that the nation had taken the extra mile to follow up on EU leader Ursula Von der Leyen’s call for Europe to take measures to avoid “a pandemic of unvaccinated”.
France’s numbers tell a good part of the story. According to government data, 74% of the French population received the first dose of the vaccine while 64% received both. On Wednesday morning, the TousAntiCovid app, a government app that tracks Covid-19 statistics in France, showed that 81.7% of all French people over 12 had received the vaccine.
From Wednesday, all French health workers must have received at least the first dose of the vaccine to continue working (vaccine-resistant people risk suspension without pay). They join soldiers and firefighters in France, who must all be vaccinated or be “considered unfit for their mission”.
Beyond that, all the people I saw in the street have respected the mask mandates that came into effect in Paris almost three weeks ago. Every bus or metro passenger, every TGV passenger that we took to Saint-Pierre-des-Corps in what we call “deep France”, every Uber and taxi driver, every customer or even practically no anyone inside a building, diligently wore their masks.
This plan has proven to be so effective that Macron has already started talking on Thursday about lifting the requirements for the health pass in regions where “the virus circulates less quickly”.
Late last year, polls showed France had the lowest percentage of people expressing a willingness to be vaccinated, with numbers lower than the United States. Barely 40% of French people have expressed the intention to be vaccinated. This is no longer the case.
The wide acceptance of vaccines, masks and the “health pass” have boosted morale in France and reinvigorated the economy. The country’s GDP, which was down 8% in 2020, is expected to grow 6% in 2021, according to the European Commission.
Schools remained fully open throughout most of the pandemic, which the government said helped economic recovery as it allowed parents to leave home and continue working. And while some stores have closed, at least in part due to the decline in tourism, business activity remains robust. Still, tourism is an important part of the French economy, and if travelers are fully vaccinated, they won’t be left out of the country – at least for now.

The Macron government believes the French will see the widespread economic benefits of the health pass program. “I’m pretty sure the French will assess the success of this policy, but not only in terms of the health pass, but also how it has been treated in terms of the economy,” said a senior adviser. to Macron, told me last week during a conversation at the Elysee.

These Covid-19 preventive initiatives have sparked nationwide protests, but with diminishing impact. So far, the protests on Saturday, which have been going on for more than two months, have shrunk to about half the size of the protests in August. And they seem to have little resistance to the yellow vests protests, which erupted in late 2018, against reforms to the country’s pension systems.

“The anti-vax movement is not so representative of the French population,” the adviser told me. “It’s a small part of the population and we have more and more people who are now vaccinated.”

Now, the sanitary pass, the economic rebound and the growing confidence of the French that the country is on the mend may well prove essential for Macron when it comes to securing a second five-year term in office. 2022 elections. However, some opponents of the president are still clinging to mandatory vaccinations and health passes as a symptom of the Macron government’s anti-liberal tendencies.

Marine Le Pen, her far-right opponent, called the health pass “disproportionate interference in [our] liberty “, in the opening speech of her campaign last weekend while promising that she would be a” president of French freedoms “.

Now, with the health pass and the mask mandate serving as cornerstones of France’s response to Covid-19, the country could become one of the global success stories of the pandemic. And with the return of children to school, their parents to work and the growing economy, France can be a useful model for Europe and the world.

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