A new bill proposed Monday in the French National Assembly, if implemented, could require French citizens to present negative Coronavirus test results or proof of vaccination in order to utilize public transportation and other public spaces.
Labeled as groundwork legislation for future heath crises, this bill would bestow the Prime Minister with extraordinary power.
Following an outcry from critics and French opposition figures, the bill was delayed Wednesday in an effort to garner more support before rolling out the legislation.
Already known as one of the most vaccine-averse nations worldwide, domestic critics have labeled the bill as “vaccination blackmail,” which would further restrict the freedoms of French citizens in a pandemic that has been increasingly viewed by right-leaning parties as a means for further government encroachment and interference in society.
“It presents “a very grave risk of violating the most fundamental civil liberties,” centrist Senator Loïc Hervé said Tuesday, wrote Politico.eu.
“How incompetent can [the government] be when it presents on the sly … three days before Christmas, a bill with restrictive sanitary measures that would give it powers of vaccine blackmail?” Conservative MP Fabien Di Filippo Tweeted.
In a Gallup survey conducted in 2018, in which 140,000 people over the age of 15 were questioned in 144 countries, “Ten percent of French respondents did not feel it was important to vaccinate children and only 19 percent felt that vaccines were effective,” reported French news outlet rfi.fr.
The French breach of trust over vaccines is believed to have derived from a buildup of vaccine-related issues over time, stated Professor Heidi Larson of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. In the 1980s, a HIV-Infused blood transfusion scandal damaged citizens’ trust in health authorities. Furthermore, in response to the 2009 h1n1 virus, the French government purchased far too many vaccines for an illness that turned out to be not nearly as deadly as formally thought. The significant over-purchase of these vaccines further bred a distrust and dissatisfaction between French citizens and their government over health concerns (rfi.ri).
The controversy surrounding Monday’s proposed bill is in the nature of the inadvertent consequences of requiring and enforcing this “Heath Passport” policy; when requiring citizens to present a negative Covid-19 test or proof of vaccination, French authorities are stripping rights away from citizens who choose not to vaccinate.
“All this is very dangerous, it is legally completely ridiculous, because, obviously, it will mean that vaccination will [effectively] be obligatory in this case,” stated Sébastien Chenu, spokesperson for the Le Rassemblement National party (RN).
President of the RN, Marine Le Pen, stated on Twitter: “We will never accept that the government would impose by coercion that which it is not able to make us accept through trust. There cannot be second-class citizenship for non-vaccinated people. This is profoundly damaging and [amounts to] liberticide [death to freedom].”
Currently, related French legislation already exists which aims to combat another largely eradicated viral illness — yellow fever.
In an agreement with the World Health Organization (WHO), 200 countries since 2005 have recognized an international certificate showing vaccination against yellow fever.
“The certificate – official name International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP).- is a “yellow booklet”, and it is required for entry to several African countries, whether at the time of requesting a visa, or upon entry into the country,” reported French news outlet ‘The Connexion’.
Currently only configured to report yellow fever and poliomyelitis, the “yellow booklet” includes a provision that enables the document to be adapted to indicate additional diseases if implemented by the WHO.