The French government sharply criticized opposition MPs after parliamentary debate on the proposed introduction of a “vaccine pass” was unexpectedly suspended Monday evening after members of the National Assembly voted to hand raised to go home.
The move came after seven hours of often heated exchanges as ministers clashed with criticism over the controversial measure due to be introduced on January 15, but now postponed.
Government spokesman Gabriel Attal on Tuesday accused opposition MPs of playing politics and stopping the adoption of what he called “essential measures … in a situation of emergency”. He said the government would pursue the controversial bill.
The proposal is to transform the current “health pass” requiring either vaccination, recovery from Covid or a negative Covid test into a “vaccine pass” requiring people to be fully vaccinated if they wish to access restaurants, bars, museums, cinemas , theaters, long distance trains, hotels and many other public places. Hospitals and health establishments would not need “vaccine passes”.
The debate, which began on Monday afternoon, was scheduled to continue until the early hours of Tuesday morning and more than 500 amendments remained to be debated when the parliamentary session was suspended shortly before midnight.
Earlier, Prime Minister Jean Castex told the House that the government could not accept that 5.3 million people remain unvaccinated in France. The new pass was intended to introduce “heavier constraints on the unvaccinated,” he admitted.
France is currently reporting an average of around 160,000 new cases of Covid per day.
“The tidal wave has indeed arrived. It is huge, but we will not give in to panic, ”the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, told the deputies.
Faced with vehement attacks from the far right Rassemblement national (RN) and the far left La France Insoumise (France Unbowed – LFI) for attacking civil liberties, Véran added that “selfishness often hides behind speeches about the so-called freedoms ”.
Most of the deputies of the centrist party of Emmanuel Macron La République en Marche (The REM) and of the large opposition party Les Républicains (LR) support the measure.
“Yesterday evening, we saw a form of irresponsible friendship forged with the deputies of La France Insoumise, the National Rally and LR to derail the schedule for adopting the vaccine pass,” said Attal. Radio France Inter.
“The vaccine pass must go into effect as soon as possible,” Attal added.
The far left presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon of LFI, who had called for the rejection of the new legislation, accused the government of having “sowed indescribable chaos because of your myopia” and accused Véran of ” arrogance “.
He called for “a comprehensive plan” and cast contempt on “measures against those who are allowed to eat popcorn or drink their coffee while standing or seated”.
Critics also accused the government, which lacks an absolute parliamentary majority seat, of amateurism after finding itself without enough members of parliament in the lower house to derail the suspension vote.
Alexis Corbière of LFI said members of the ruling party were to blame for the standoff. “The LREM deputies were not sufficiently mobilized last night and found themselves in the minority. It is absolutely their fault. he tweeted.
The new legislation would also introduce tougher penalties for those using bogus vaccine passes or sites that do not verify the immunization status of people with up to five years in prison and € 75,000 (£ 63,000) fine.