France launches controversial vaccine pass as fourth wave hits

French cinemas, museums and sports venues began asking visitors Wednesday to furnish proof of Covid-19 vaccination or a negative test as the country, which is in the throes of a fourth wave of infections, rolled out a controversial vaccine passport system.

The so-called “health pass” is required for all events or places with more than 50 people before being extended to restaurants, cafes and shopping centres in August.

Prime Minister Jean Castex defended the policy, noting that nearly all new infections are in people who have not been immunised.

The number of new infections over 24 hours shot up to 21,000 on Wednesday, the highest level since early May.

“We’re in the fourth wave,” Castex told TF1 television, adding that the goal of the health pass is to avoid a fourth nationwide lockdown.

Health Minister Olivier Veran lashed out at vaccine refuseniks, who have accused the government of flouting their freedom of choice.

“Freedom is not about dodging taxes, or driving the wrong way up the motorway, or smoking in a restaurant or refusing a vaccine that protects me as much as it protects others,” he told parliament.

 50-million target

The Louvre museum and Eiffel Tower were among the sites that began implementing the vaccine checks on Wednesday.

But whereas most tourists had their vaccine certificates at hand, having shown them on arrival in the country, some French people were wrong-footed by the new rules.

In the Paris suburb of Rosny-sous-Bois, 28-year-old Marie-Ange Rodrigues was surprised to be barred from a cinema screening after having received her second vaccine shot.

“It’s rubbish!” she said of the requirement to have been fully vaccinated for at least a week.

Nearly 38 million people, representing 56 percent of the French population, have received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to data by the covidtracker.fr website.

Nearly 46 percent, have been fully vaccinated.

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