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COVID-19: France’s virus pass now required in restaurants, trains

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France took a big step Monday into the future of post-pandemic living by demanding people show a QR code for a virus pass before they can dine at restaurants or ride public transportation.

The measure is part of a government campaign to get more people vaccinated against COVID-19 and to slow down a rising tide of infections caused by the highly contagious delta variant, which now accounts for most cases in France. Approximately 54% of the French population has been fully vaccinated, or more than 36 million people.

A special pass is issued to persons who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, recently recovered from the disease, or whose recent Covid-19 test has been negative. As a result of the plan, tourists visiting the country will also be subjected to the measure.

Marseille restaurant owners did not check customers for the pass, an Associated Press reporter observed Monday. Many in the entertainment industry are annoyed that the government is forcing them to do this job.

According to the owner of Backstage, a restaurant and bar in Paris’ Left Bank theater district, the checks made him feel like a police officer, but he still followed the orders.

″This involves putting on another cap,” said Pierre Arnoux. “We have to ask the client if — yes or no — they are validated to have a drink at my restaurant. This is rather unusual. I must admit this isn’t for me.”

On Monday, Arnoux said that the crowd was light and clients were cooperative, but that the client requirements were onerous.

One client, Myriam Karmasine, said she was prepared and it “posed no problem,” and another, Sonia Hamiche, said she was not bothered, either.

“But I’ve observed that there are less people outside today compared to normal on the streets and on the terraces,” Hamiche said. “I think this must have stopped certain people.”

People without a pass where it is required risk a fine of 135 euros ($158). The French government said for the first week of implementation, police controls will not lead to sanctions for non-compliance but instead will be an occasion to explain the law.

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In hospitals, visitors and patients who have appointments are required to have the pass. Exceptions are made for people at the emergency ward.

Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari announced Monday that the pass will be required on high-speed and intercity trains and overnight trains in France, which carry over 400,000 passengers every day. The document is also required for long-distance travel by air or bus.

“We’re going to enforce massive controls,” Djebbari said.

At the same time, Paris Saint-Germain will be able to host a capacity crowd for its first home game of the season against Strasbourg in the French league on Saturday. According to PSG, the Paris prefecture has approved 49,700 fans to attend the Parc des Princes stadium, with spectators expected to show their virus passes.

Polls show that most French support the health pass. In the week following President Emmanuel Macron’s announcement on July 12, at least 7 million people have received their first vaccine shot.

However, the measure has been strongly opposed by some people who argue that it limits their freedom of movement outside of their homes. On Saturday, thousands of demonstrators took part in protests against the change, marking the fourth consecutive weekend of protests against it.

As of the last month, virus passes had already been in effect for cultural and recreational venues such as cinemas, concert halls, sports arenas and theme parks.

Health care workers in France must also be vaccinated by Sept. 15 against the virus.

(AP)

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