French legislators have begun debating a draft bill aimed at replacing France’s COVID health pass with a vaccine pass, as some lawmakers from the governing party said they would not give in to death threats over the legislation.
The new law, if passed, would make it mandatory for people over 12 to present a valid vaccination certificate to enter leisure venues such as restaurants and bars.
Lawmakers are set to vote on the draft law later on Monday before it goes to the Senate.
France has vaccinated 77 percent of its population and is rushing out booster shots to combat the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
But more than four million adults remain unvaccinated, including more than one million people over age 65.
And for them, public life will be severely restricted as the government rushes out vaccine passes.
Lambasting what he called the “selfishness” of those who oppose immunisations, Health Minister Oliver Veran said, “The aim of this law is not to curb freedoms … it is to save lives.”
“They brandish higher principles, they say they fight for freedom but their fight is petty and knows nothing of the elementary principles that govern how we live together, as a society, including in these difficult times,” Veran said.
With Monday’s debate set to continue into the night, left-wing lawmaker Jean-Luc Melenchon said the proposed law would set up a “totalitarian, authoritarian society”.
In tackling the pandemic, “you have been wrong on everything,” he told the government.
‘We will not yield’
Meanwhile, legislators from France’s governing party said on Monday they would not be cowed by death threats that dozens of politicians have received over the bill.
“We will not yield,” Yael Braun-Pivet, of the governing La Republique en Marche (LREM) party, told parliament, referring to death threats which she said politicians of all stripes had received. “It’s our democracy that is at stake.”
Last week, the garage of a governing party lawmaker was set on fire, with graffiti by suspected anti-vaccination protesters scrawled on an adjacent wall.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has said police will strengthen protections for lawmakers after several, including LREM’s Barbara Bessot Ballot, went public with death threats.
She said 52 lawmakers had received messages threatening to kill them for “attacking our freedom”, adding on Twitter, “Those death threats are unacceptable.”
France saw large crowds rally against the health pass when it was introduced in the middle of 2021, but attendance at the weekend rallies dwindled as acceptance of the vaccine rose.