Within hours, French National Assembly first rejects, then approves COVID health passport
PARIS, May 13, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — The French National Assembly adopted the principle of a sanitary passport during the night from Tuesday to Wednesday, approving a “health pass” that will be required as of June 9 for some events and expanded at the end of June for large public gatherings to prove vaccination, COVID-19 negativity or recent infection (and therefore immunity) from the virus. The large majority of votes — 205 in favor, 85 against — was obtained by a repeat vote on an article of the draft law that had been rejected a few hours earlier by 108 votes against, and 103 in favor.
It was just another episode in a parliamentary comedy that saw the centrist allies of the government party, “La République en Marche,” first slam the “vagueness” and lack of precise detail of the proposed sanitary pass and then allow it to be adopted.
In exchange, the opposition had asked for a reduction of the state of sanitary emergency that is also being prolonged by the law. The government rewrote the bill that same evening to include a shortening of the state of emergency but without modifying dispositions regarding the health pass, and submitted it immediately for a new vote.
As determined by the National Assembly, the government will retain its extraordinary powers until the end of September instead of the end of October — small comfort, when considering that the surveillance state is striding forward with requirements that will be specified via executive decrees. The precise circumstances in which the health pass being set up will be compulsory are not included in the law, meaning they can be modified — and extended — at will by the government without parliamentary control.
The law has yet to be approved by the French Senate, and will discuss the draft law as of May 18.
France is the first member of the European Union to institute a compulsory sanitary passport. This will likely streamline the EU’s upcoming “green pass” that is expected to mature by summer.
Hope had arisen when, in an unexpected turnabout, the French National Assembly had rejected the present government proposal to mandate a sanitary pass for international travel and large public gatherings as of June on Tuesday evening.
At the end of a day of heated debate, the centrist party, MODEM, complained about the lack of precision of the text and accused the government of refusing to listen to concerns about the “red lines” of the text and the vagueness of its dispositions.
“There is a constitutional risk regarding the lack of clarity, a risk of appeals about gauges and the places included or not in the use of the pass. And there is a problem of balance between the legislative and the executive, whose prerogatives would be stronger outside the state of health emergency,” said the spokesman of MODEM, Philippe Latombe.
As the law is presently worded, it would not only institute the tyrannical health pass but give a lot of leeway to the executive branch to extend its use. This has now been accepted by MODEM after a short-lived rebellion.
LREM lost its absolute majority in May last year when 17 deputies of the brand new, supposedly representative movement tailored to measure for the election of Emmanuel Macron as President of the French Republic decided to leave the party and create their own political group at the National Assembly.
It looked as if members of the “Chambre des Députés” were truly questioning the government’s authoritarian measures to combat COVID. France is at present under the tightest COVID regime in Europe, with a 7 p.m. nationwide curfew, so-called “non-essential shops” closed and restaurants and bars not allowed to receive the public either inside or out.
As it turns out, only very minor parties, not represented in parliament, are presently combating the sanitary dictatorship, as well as some isolated members of the National Assembly. On the other hand, protests against COVID restrictions are gaining traction in France.
Florian Philippot, a former member of the Rassemblement National of Marine Le Pen (she was not present and did not vote on this major issue), who organizes weekly demonstrations under the windows of health minister Olivier Véran, tweeted: “The members of the House who voted for #SanitaryPass voted for apartheid. They will forever carry the weight of shame and dishonor.”
He added, “We will need to organize and boycott the institutions that will use #PassOfShame!”
While SARS-CoV-2 infections are steadily declining, as are deaths attributed to COVID, the French government is still touting vaccination as the only possible way to get out of restrictions, and only predicts a (more or less) complete “return to normal” by September, at the earliest. Prominent media personalities have gone on record saying that vaccination should be made compulsory because otherwise, the minimum of 70 percent of the population vaccinated will not be reached, and social media surveys are pushing vaccine passports as the only way to freedom for which the French are clamoring.
Strangely, the principle of a sanitary passport was first approved on Monday evening by the National Assembly by a limited number of representatives, before the same article was rejected on Tuesday evening by the short margin evoked earlier in this story, and then adopted again.
On Tuesday evening, Prime Minister Jean Castex downplayed the rebellion of the LREM’s main ally, stating on the national news show on state-run France 2 television channel at 8 p.m.: “The disagreement was not about the health pass, but about the date of exit from the health emergency. To be on the safe side, we had set a date of October 31. Several members of the majority wanted a date of September 30.”
“There will be a sanitary pass,” he pounded, promising that a new vote would take place the same evening. It did, in the early hours of Wednesday.
Castex’s statement does not agree with the facts, as it was clearly the health pass that was rejected. But some commentators noted that the opposition was seeking a negotiation tool in order to force the government to shorten the state of emergency that is being prolonged, with extra measures open to the authorities.
In particular, article 4 of the law that was debated provides for isolating COVID-19 positive but asymptomatic citizens in places that are not clearly identified by the draft law, at the government’s discretion. One deputy, Martine Wonner, a former member of LREM, a psychiatrist with experience as an emergency physician, said this was a totally unacceptable curb on public liberties without even the judiciary control of an independent judge.
The same article aims to set up heavier repressive measures for those who disregard COVID restrictions (first offenders already risk a €135 fine, and up to €3,750 plus six months imprisonment for breaking the rules three times within a period of 30 days).
When announced by Emmanuel Macron a few weeks ago, the sanitary pass was presented as a COVID-status app (or printed document) proving vaccination, a recent negative test, or prior COVID-19 infection within the last six months. He said it would be required for public exhibitions and commercial fairs with more than 5,000 people attending as of June 9, and then at public events with more than 1,000 visitors as of June 30. He added that “everyday” situations — visiting friends, going to the restaurant or the movies — would not be included.
However, the draft law contains none of the limits suggested by the president, nor does it fix a limit to the duration of its use, although the government’s “Scientific Counsel” recommended that use of a health pass remain temporary. It would also be applicable for all children older than 11.
This Wednesday, the official digital public liberties watchdog CNIL approved the sanitary passport on the condition that it will be pulled as soon as the health crisis is past, that the government clearly defines when and where it can be required — and never for everyday activities — and that private professionals be barred from taking the initiative of subjecting access to their business to the presentation of the pass.
The French Academy of Medicine is not content with the plan and is now pleading for a fully-fledged vaccine passport for all. A communiqué published at the end of April rejected the possibility of giving a free pass to people who tested negative or those whose COVID infection was healed, because of the “uncertain or ephemeral” character of these data. “A certificate of vaccination at present constitutes the best proof of acquisition of immunity against COVID-19,” said the statement.
The institution added that this would be a way of exerting pressure on those who refuse the vaccine, by making it the condition of their freedom of movement in Europe and in the world.
At the same time, the Academy of Medicine wants “barrier gestures” to continue to be observed, and it had nothing to say about fully vaccinated people who are infected with the coronavirus, and even in some cases go to hospital or even die. Nor did it raise the issue of COVID-positive persons who develop infections after being vaccinated.