France makes vaccination mandatory for all healthcare workers

Macron says people will need Covid pass to gain access to restaurants and entertainment

President Emmanuel Macron delivered his eighth televised address on the Covid-19 pandemic on Monday night, as France confronts a resurgence of the virus due to the rapid spread of the Delta variant, which now accounts for a majority of infections.

Speaking against a backdrop of the Eiffel Tower, Mr Macron announced that vaccination will be mandatory for medical personnel in contact with the elderly and other at-risk populations. There will be checks from September 15th and those who do not comply will penalised. Only 40 per cent of employees in nursing homes are vaccinated at present.

A Covid pass with a QR code indicating its holder is fully vaccinated, has tested negative for Covid or has gained immunity through illness, will be required for access to concerts and other places of entertainment from July 21st. Passes will be mandatory for cafes, restaurants, shopping centres, hospitals and trains from August 1st.

Mr Macron began on an upbeat note, thanking healthcare workers for their dedication and the French for their civic sense. “We succeeded in mastering the epidemic and came back to life,” he said. The infection rate had dipped below 2,000 new cases daily, “compared to more than 35,000 at the worst of the crisis”.


Positive light

Mr Macron presented the bad news in a positive light, compatible with his presidential re-election campaign. He did not mention that 4,256 new Covid cases were reported in France on Sunday. He said his policy of “whatever it costs” has created “a vigorous rebound” and he expects the French economy to grow 6 per cent in 2021, “in the lead for big European economies”.

France attracted the most foreign direct investment of any country in Europe for the last two years. Contrary to predictions, he added, employment has not been severely affected.

Then came the bad news: “Our country is confronted with a strong resumption of the epidemic . . . The arrival of the so-called Delta variant has led to an increase in infections throughout the world, because this variant is three times more contagious than the original virus. It rushes into every space that is not covered by vaccination,” Mr Macron said.

“The equation is simple,” he continued. “The more we vaccinate, the less space we leave to the virus to spread, the more we avoid hospitalisations and other mutations.” He declared 2021 to be “a summer of mobilisation for vaccination”.

Though vaccination has been made mandatory only for healthcare workers at the moment, Mr Macron said that France “must move towards vaccinating everyone, because that is the only path to a return to normal life”. He predicted that the question of “mandatory vaccination for all French people” will arise.

Laboratories will charge for PCR tests, which have been free until now, from this autumn, “to encourage vaccination rather than multiple tests”.

Social partners will discuss the reform of the pension system and raising the retirement age in September, but the reform will wait “until the epidemic is under control and the recovery is secure”, Mr Macron said.

Lara Marlowe

Lara Marlowe

Lara Marlowe is an Irish Times contributor