PARIS (AP) — French Prime Minister Jean Castex says a new COVID-19 pass will go into effect Monday, severely restricting the public lives of those who refuse to get inoculated by banning them from domestic flights, restaurants, sports events and other venues.
“(The pass) ... is necessary if we want to preserve and increase our vaccination coverage in the event of new variants,” Castex said Thursday. The so-called vaccine pass “clearly puts constraints on the unvaccinated,” he added.
As of Monday, full vaccination will be needed to enter restaurants and bars, cinemas, theaters and other leisure and sport facilities, and to take interregional trains and domestic flights. The measure applies to everyone 16 and over. The government said some exceptions are planned for those who have recently recovered from COVID-19.
Castex also said France's virus surge is showing signs of waning but pressure on hospitals remains high, which is why the government wants to keep current restrictions in place for 12 more days.
“This exceptional wave is not over, but its waning effects are a positive sign,” the prime minister told a press conference in Paris.
He said that, starting Feb. 2, working from home at least three days per week will no longer be mandated and wearing a mask outdoors will be lifted. Nightclubs will open Feb. 16.
Also starting Monday, children aged 12 to 17 years old will be eligible for a booster shoot, Castex said.
The vaccine pass is key to stopping the highly contagious omicron variant from spreading, Castex said.
But he conceded that the measure could be suspended "if the number of infections sharply drops and the burden on hospitals becomes significantly lighter.”
France has been the virus' epicenter in Europe, fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant. The country on Monday alone reported a record 525, 525 new cases.
On average, over 320,000 cases per day have been recorded over the past week. Yet numbers of new patients admitted into hospitals’ intensive care units decreased by 15% over the same period, letting the government hope that the situation will improve in the coming weeks.
Earlier Thursday, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said more than 1 million adults got their first COVID-19 vaccine shot over the past month, after the plan for the vaccine pass was announced.
About 92% of French adults — over 48 million people — are already fully vaccinated, and 94% have received at least one shot.
The French parliament approved the new measure over the weekend after weeks of heated debate. The Constitutional Council will release its assessment on Friday.
Barbara Surk contributed from Nice, France.
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