COVID Coup: French National Assembly Rejects Macron’s Vaccine Passport in Shock Vote

A demonstrator holds up a banner which reads as "Make France free again", during a nationa

In a shock move in the late hours of Monday evening, the French National Assembly rejected a push from the government to transform the nation’s COVID pass into a fully-fledged vaccine passport.

Rebuking Emmanuel Macron’s government, a majority in the National Assembly refused to examine a change to the law to allow the government to introduce a vaccine passport by January 15th.

The government had hoped to transform the COVID pass (Pass Sanitaire) — which has been available to those with proof of a negative test, proof of recovery from the Wuhan virus, or vaccination — into a full vaccine passport only granted to those with proof of full vaccination or recovery.

The proposed legislation would also introduce harsher penalties for forging vaccine passports — which has become increasingly widespread as of late — with those caught facing up to five years in prison and a fine of €75,000 (£63,00/$85,000), France 24 reports.

However, in what has been characterised as a “coup” in the French media, a coalition of opposition lawmakers joined together to refuse to examine the bill on Monday evening, the Libération newspaper reported.

The surprise defeat of the government could derail plans to introduce the measure by mid-January, considering that should the legislation eventually pass the lower house, it would still need to be ratified by the French senate.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that the National Assembly is scheduled to recess by February in preparation for the upcoming presidential election.

Yet, an attempt to reopen the examination of the legislation is likely to occur Tuesday afternoon, French broadcaster BMFTV reported.

The defeat of the government was hailed by opposition lawmakers, including Les Républicains MP Julien Aubert, who said that it was “a slap in the face for the government.”

Right-wing presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, whose Rassemblement National (RN) party joined the opposition against vaccine passports, hailed the defeat of the government as “a victory for democracy.”

“We can no longer allow debates on health restrictions, which have an impact on the life and freedoms of our compatriots, to take place at night far from the eyes of the French,” Le Pen wrote on social media.

The leader of the left-wing populist party La France Insoumise, Jean-Luc Mélenchon welcomed the move as a needed “correction” for Health Minister Olivier Véran.

Véran, who has been spearheading the push for vaccine passports, decried the move, saying that “selfishness often hides behind talk of supposed liberty”.

In December, the health minister admitted that the introduction of the vaccine passport was intended as a “disguised” form of vaccine mandates, claiming that it would be an “effective” measure to encourage the remaining five million unvaccinated people over 12-years-old to come forward to take the coronavirus vaccine.

France has seen a “tidal wave” of infections, according to Véran, with daily confirmed cases rising to a peak of over 200,000 per day in large part due to the emergence of the omicron variant of the Chinese virus.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka


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