More than 1.3 million French made appointments for the first dose of the vaccine, mostly by people between 25 and 34 years old, after President Macron’s announcements Monday evening.
More than 900,000 rushed to the Doctolib app in the minutes after the TV address, in which the president said that, due to the resurgence of contagions because of the Delta variant, residents would need to present their health pass (meaning proof of vaccination or a very recent negative test) in order to attend many kinds of activities.
From July 21, all places of entertainment and culture that receive more than 50 people will require a health pass. From August 1, this will extend to bars, restaurants, shopping malls, planes, trains and buses for long-distance national travel. Vaccination will be mandatory for all health personnel and those who work in hospitals, clinics or nursing homes, including volunteers or those who go to the homes of the elderly: they will all have to get vaccinated by September 15, after which they will be liable for fines.
“If you are healthcare personnel and you are not vaccinated,” said the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, “you can no longer work and you will no longer be paid.” In addition, the free tests—for which France has been an exception worldwide—will no longer be available except with a doctor’s prescription, otherwise one will have to pay.
Macron wanted to jolt a population that had become apathetic on the vaccine front—only 40% are vaccinated with two doses, a little more than 50% have had the first dose, and 9 million doses are still in storage—and which by now had become convinced that the pandemic had been defeated. For the moment, there is no generalized obligation to get vaccinated, although that is “a possibility” for the future.
For schools, there will be a “specific vaccination campaign” in the fall. Since June 15, vaccination has been open to all persons over 12 years of age, but the rate of vaccination of the very young remains low, while 70-75% of teachers have already had at least the first dose. The government has specified that there will be “flexibility” regarding the very young, with “common sense,” because most will not manage to get their two doses before the end of the holidays.
For young people, Macron announced an extension of the “occupation income,” for those who don’t have work and are not undergoing education.
But there was also another goal for Macron’s TV speech, this one electoral, looking ahead to the spring of 2022 and the presidential elections. He wanted to strike a firm tone on vaccines, after making references to the improving economy, and concluding with the call for “reforms”: both the one for unemployment benefits, which will come into force in October as planned, and the one for pensions, which will not be pursued “until the epidemic is under control and the recovery is truly solid.”
On the left, criticism has focused on the announced reforms—especially on his plan to not give up on reforming unemployment benefits. In Macron’s view, those who are working should earn more than those who aren’t; as he argued, there are job offers that are going unfilled and the shortage of workers could hold back the recovery.
Regarding pensions, the reform is still in the speculative stage and full of confusion. The Delta variant has allowed Macron a strategic retreat, to de facto postpone any change to the system until after the presidential election. The PS approves of the extended role of the health pass and the compulsory vaccination for health personnel, a long-standing request by the authorities in the sector, who are deploring the gap between doctors (72% with at least one dose), nurses (58.7%) and non-qualified personnel (just over 40%). However, the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, who is preparing her candidacy to challenge Macron, has said she would “have preferred more pedagogy” instead.
There were mixed opinions from Europe Ecology: some members have criticized the decisions (a deputy spoke of “apartheid” for the unvaccinated). The Républicains were approving: “there is no choice,” but some are criticizing the fact that “the mandatory vaccination, without saying so, creates two categories among the population.” The National Rally was firmly opposed, with Marine Le Pen saying that this is “a serious setback for individual freedoms.” France Insoumise criticized the “authoritarianism” of the measures. For CGT, Macron’s tone was “contemptuous, stigmatizing, degrading.” In the cultural world, meanwhile, people described Macron’s speech as a “cold shower.”
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