Special French court OKs most of new law on health pass

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A French constitutional court has validated most aspects of a new law that, starting next week, requires that people carry a special COVID-19 health pass to access cafes, restaurants, long-distance travel and, in some cases, hospitals

The Constitutional Council ruled that the automatic 10-day isolation of people infected with the virus goes against French freedoms. It was unclear what immediate effect that would have. The court also struck down suspension of short-term contracts for those without a health pass.

The health pass has ardent opponents, with many claiming their freedoms are compromised. It is issued to people either vaccinated against COVID-19, or who have proof of recent recovery from the infection, or a recent negative test.

Starting Monday, it will be required for using long-distance travel by train, plane or bus, entering restaurants, cafes and their terraces and rest homes — among a long list laid out in the law and approved in the ruling.

The Council also approved obliging health care workers to be vaccinated against the virus by Sept. 15. And it ruled that requiring the health pass for hospital visitors and others is justified — if it “doesn’t create an obstacle to accessing health care.”

The legislation was sped urgently through parliament last week as virus infections soared, due to the highly contagious delta variant which now accounts for most cases in France.

Polls show most French support the pass. But vocal critics complain that it limits their movements outside home — and implicitly renders vaccinations obligatory. Opponents have demonstrated around the country for the past three Saturdays, with more protests expected this weekend.

The Constitutional Council which examined the law is a special court which, among other things, reviews the constitutionality of legislation.

Dozens of protesters have been holding sit-ins in front of the Council building in Paris for several days, and on Thursday police chased some out of a nearby square.

The health pass has been in effect since July 21 for cultural and recreational venues, including cinemas, concert halls and theme parks with capacity for more than 50 people. But the new law to go into effect on Monday vastly extended its application.

Many restaurant owners say it is not their job to enforce the law, checking each client for a pass. Some health professionals have voiced fears that patients in need of non-urgent treatment could suffer.

“Quite a few people have told us they wouldn’t be coming back once the health pass is implemented,” said Vanessa Shi, co-owner of a noodle restaurant near the Champs-Elysees Avenue.

“We’ve been insulted on several occasions, with people calling us sell-outs and worse for saying we would implement the measure,” she said. “But with the bills we’ve racked up during the pandemic … it’s a matter of survival for us.”

More than 28,700 new infections were reported as of Wednesday evening, a steep climb from one month ago. The pandemic has claimed more than 112,000 lives in France.

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Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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