© Reuters. Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Judo – Men’s 60kg – Last 32 – Nippon Budokan – Tokyo, Japan – July 24, 2021. France’s President Emmanuel Macron wearing a protective face mask watches judo REUTERS/Hannah Mckay/Files
By Richard Lough
PARIS (Reuters) -France’s highest court upheld a new law requiring the public to hold a health pass to access bars and restaurants and health workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by mid-September, saying it complied with the republic’s founding charter.
In its ruling on Thursday, the Constitutional Council did however strike down several clauses in the legislation, saying that enforcing a compulsory 10-day quarantine on anyone testing COVID-19 positive impinged on freedoms.
It also ruled that while employers could suspend health and frontline workers who refuse to get a COVID-19 shot or show proof of a negative test, they could not dismiss those on short term contracts.
The legislation is due to come into effect on Aug. 9. It was unveiled by President Emmanuel Macron in July as the Delta variant of the coronavirus fuelled a fourth wave of infections. Macron delivered a simple message at the time: get vaccinated.
It prompted a surge in the vaccination rate as the French faced the prospect of being denied access to bars, restaurants, cafes and cinemas without proof of either vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test.
But opponents of the legislation accuse Macron of trampling on freedoms and discriminating against the unvaccinated. Some 200,000 people marched through towns and cities across France in a third weekend of protests on Saturday and more are planned.
“A few tens of thousands of people have lost their minds to such an extent that they are capable of saying we live in a dictatorship,” Macron told Paris Match in an interview published on Wednesday.
It is irresponsible and selfish not to get vaccinated, the president has said, pointing to the renewed pressure on the healthcare system.
Hospitals along the Riviera, in Corsica and the southern Occitanie region have again triggered their crisis management plans that include postponing some surgeries to free up beds.
At the La Cabasse restaurant near the Mediterranean port city of Toulon, manager Laurent Bondil said he was certain the health pass would hit his earnings but that he would adhere to the new regulations.
“Every day there’s a new rule. But what counts is that we’re still here.”
The majority of French people approve of the health pass requirements, an Elabe survey showed.
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