France and Italy have announced that they will roll out
Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) passports. These so-called COVID-19 passports were only issued to vaccinated citizens, people who recovered from a bout of COVID-19 and those who recently tested negative from the virus. However, these health passes were met by criticism as they limited the freedom of unvaccinated people.
On Aug. 5, the French Constitutional Council agreed with many provisions
of a law requiring French citizens to carry a COVID-19 health pass from the following week onward. French President Emmanuel Macron first announced the legislation in July 2021. It managed to pass the French Parliament as COVID-19 cases spiked in the country due to the B16172 delta variant.
The COVID-19 health pass has been required in France since July 21 for cultural and recreational venues such as cinemas, concert halls and theme parks that can accommodate more than 15 people. The Aug. 5 ruling expanded the health pass's application to include cafes, restaurants, and rest houses. It was also mandated for long-distance transport by bus, train or airplane.
The council also mandated that health care workers get the COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 15, the Associated Press
(AP) reported. Furthermore, it ruled that requiring the COVID-19 health pass for hospital visitors is justified if it "doesn't create an obstacle for accessing health care."
However, the Constitutional Council struck down a number of stipulations in the new law. The rule limiting outdoor time to two hours per day for those self-isolating due to COVID-19 was deemed to go against constitutional freedoms. It also struck down the suspension of short-term job contracts for French citizens without a health pass.
The council initially appeared to disagree with the COVID-19 public health protocols. However, it ultimately decided that a balance must be struck between people's freedom and the "constitutional value of health protection." (Related: France threatens to imprison restaurant owners who serve the "unvaccinated."
Italy also implemented a similar COVID-19 passport scheme
France's southwestern neighbor Italy also announced a similar scheme with its Green Pass. Italian officials announced on Aug. 6 that the pass, which can come as a digital or paper version, will be required
in a number of establishments. These included gyms, swimming pools, sports stadiums, restaurants, museums, spas, casinos and cinemas.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi also expanded the Green Pass's requirement to include transport on trains, airplanes, ships and inter-city coaches from Sept. 1. Prior to this, the pass was only required for travel within the European Union. It was also required to access care homes and participate in large wedding receptions within Italy.
reported that the Green Pass had also been expanded to include teachers and university students. Under the expanded rule, teachers must show the Green Pass before entering the classroom. They will not be permitted to work unless they have the pass. Teachers without the pass will be suspended for five days straight and will no longer be paid. (Related: Bill de Blasio threatens to expand "vaccine passport" requirements in New York City: Are grocery stores next?
Draghi told reporters: "The Green Pass is essential if we want to keep business open." Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza concurred with Draghi's comments toward the Green Pass. "The choice of the [Italian] government is to invest as much as possible in the Green Pass to avoid closures and to safeguard freedom," he said.
In March, Draghi also mandated COVID-19 vaccination for Italian health care workers. His order came one month after he took office.
The vaccine passport mandates were met with protests
However, not all French and Italians met the COVID-19 passports warmly. In France, opponents accused Macron of infringing on freedoms and discriminating against unvaccinated people. They claimed the COVID-19 health pass and the other measures limited movement outside the home and indirectly required inoculation.
Several hundred protesters gathered in front of the Palais-Royal in Paris, where the Constitutional Council is located. Thirty-seven-year-old Julien Bailly, who was fully vaccinated himself, joined the protest in support of health freedom. "Everyone should be able to make that choice freely, not because oppressive laws force them to," he said of vaccination.
Similar demonstrations against the Green Pass were also organized
in 12 Italian cities. In Rome, hundreds of people gathered at the Piazza del Popolo under a large banner that read: "United for freedom of choice, against all discriminations."
Politician and art critic Vittorio Sgarbi participated in the protests in Rome. He told French radio station RFI
: "I am not getting vaccinated because I am scared. We have no certainties that the vaccine has been tested. I do not want the vaccine, [it's] my decision."
has more stories about the use of COVID-19 passports in different countries.