France is pushing ahead with its mandate that people present a Covid passport showing they are fully vaccinated for access to public venues, bars and restaurants, shopping malls, supermarkets, public transportation and so forth. Under the new law, a negative Covid test will not grant you access to public areas. The first decree goes into effect this week and the Bill should be rubber-stamped by President Macron’s majority in Parliament in early January. There is widespread resistance by those who don’t want the vaccine but still want their freedom.
Over the weekend some 115,000 people according to the police, twice that number according to organizers, demonstrated against the restrictive measures, referring to them as “apartheid” or “dictatorial.” This is a lot for a summer vacation month in France where all business usually stops until La Rentrée in the first week of September.
And although Macron’s methods are authoritarian (1), it is clear vaccines work, even against the ‘Delta’ Variant’ which I will still refer to as the ‘Indian Variant.’ (2) It is obvious that unvaccinated people are not following rules which require them to wear masks indoors or when around other people.
Play by the Rules or Lose
One need look no further than Los Angeles County where authorities are planning to reimpose masks for everybody, including the vaccinated, because the unvaccinated who were obliged to wear masks in indoor public spaces were not doing so and nobody was under any obligation to control.
According to the LA Times: “L.A. County officials are now worried that unvaccinated people instead responded by not masking up in required settings. And with cases and hospitalizations growing, authorities say they hope reinstituting masking as a social norm will help reduce disease transmission.” (Click here)
It is for this reason that Macron is right to impose obligations and controls to stop the spread of the virus while allowing the vaccinated to live their lives. In response to critics of the tough measures Macron said: “I don’t want to have to shut down bars and restaurants again.”
The spread of Covid in L.A. County is a good example of why vaccines are important. Over the past week, of the 10,000 new cases reported in LA County, 99% are among the unvaccinated. It is punishing the vaccinated to protect the unvaccinated from spreading the disease that the French president wants to avoid.
Hard but Fair
There is no doubt the measures the French are imposing are tough:
- Many categories of employees will either get vaccinated or lose their jobs without compensation, including bar and restaurant workers, and care-givers.
- People without a vaccine passport will be turned away from businesses, public venues, eateries and bars, transportation such as planes, trains and long distance bus lines.
- Establishments which do not control whether people have a Covid Passport face fines, initially set at €45,000 but now reduced to a more reasonable €1,500. (Click here) (3)
In order to live a normal life once the measures take effect, you will have to present one of the following:
- A negative test (PCR or antigenic) less than 48 or 72 hours old depending on the venue.
- Or proof that you have already been contaminated by and cured of Covid-19 (positive test : PCR or antigenic more than 11 days old and less than six months old).
- Or a Covid Passport which shows you are totally vaccinated.
Macron’s tough Covid measures have widespread support among the population (58% favor the health pass for bars and restaurants, and 66% for cultural venues, while 78% support obligatory vaccination for health workers and care givers, including home care workers).
Macron’s decree obtained the response he wanted from a French public reluctant to get the shots as this title from The Guardian sums up: “More than 20,000 people a minute book jabs after cafes, malls and trains ruled out of bounds for the unvaccinated.” (Click here)
Four million French took vaccine rendez—vous in the first 48 hours after Macron’s nationwide address July 12. More wanted to sign up but the online site for taking an appointment collapsed under the onslaught.
Resistance: Liberty or Stupidity
Yet, many French still don’t want the jab but insist on the total freedom now reserved for the vaccinated. Protesters carried posters of the President and Ministers with Hitler moustaches and some were wearing Yellow Stars, likening the Covid Passport to the symbol the Nazis imposed on Jews. One demonstrator said: “I’m sorry. I will say it. Jews too were prevented from going into the shops.”
The Nazi analogy sparked indignation from the government and Jews alike while government spokesman, Gabriel Attal, condemned opposition parties, both left and right, for not denouncing the scandalous parallel.
One French Holocauste survivor, Jospeh Scwarc, expressed his indignation in no uncertaint terms: “This comparison is odious,” Scwarc said. “You cannot imagine how much that hurt me. Tears came to my eyes. I wore the Yellow Star. I know what it is. I still have it under my skin today.”
The government spokesman, Gabriel Attal, who detractors say looks like a school kid too young to shave, said that, because of the Delta/Indian Variant, “We have entered a fourth wave.” New Covid cases in France rose by 229% in just one week: July 12-18. (click here )
“We would like to not have to impose the pass sanitaire (Covid Passport),“ Gabriel Attal said, but “The virus, unfortunately, is liberticide (a freedom killer),” and transmits “in the moments of social interaction.”
Authoritarian Measures as a Dress Rehearsal?
So, yes, tough measures are needed, not only to stop the spread of the virus, but to allow the vaccinated to lead their lives freely and for the economy to keep running. But it is also true that these are extremely tough, authoritarian, measures which can be used for other things down the road. Macron has spent the past five years curtailing democratic debate, increasing executive and police powers to the detriment of the justice system, and ruling by decree where decision are taken in top secret ‘Defense Councils.’
Opponents to the measures have valid arguments too. It is important not to lose our sense of democratic process in the panic of Covid. There are those in power and in the shadows who follow the mantra of the Chicago School: that you should never waste a good crisis.
Germany rejected imposing French style measures that would exclude a large portion of society for fear of starting down the slippery path of authoritarianism. Germans have proven to be much more disciplined than their European partners at respecting the rules and getting the jab.
One thing is sure: military, police and governments have been studying how well their lockdown measures worked so that they will know what to change if they, one day, decide to impose Martial Law. Macron made the State of Emergency permanent and under his direct control in 2017. The State of Emergency is just one step away from the State of Siege.
The Generals may be called upon yet.
1. See my previous blog post here and especially note one.
2. I oppose the politically correct approach in order to not stigmatize countries for the origin of a strain of the virus. It wasn’t a problem when it was the English Variant but became one with South Africa and India. And yes, this is the Wuhan Virus in the same way there was the Asian Flu (1957) or the Hong Kong Flu (1968), etc. I actually believe that by naming them, we can help convince people in the rich North of the necessity to help those in the poorer nations in order to prevent further mutations.
3. Macron’s Ministers have been caught out in many lies, contradictions and back peddling. The latest is why impose the measures only on shopping centers of more than 20,000 square meters and not 50,000 or 10,000, when cafés and restaurants have to verify the vaccination card even for those sitting on the terrace?
The Covid response, incompetence, back-and-forth, and outright lying has bankrupted this government’s already tarnished credibility. Health Minister, Agnes Buzyn, resigned in February 2020 when it was revealed that she told the cabinet in December 2019 that this virus was bad and there would be a pandemic but she was still telling the French public a month later there was nothing to worry about and no precautions were necessary. Macron made sure she got a golden parachute by being elected to the European Parliament where she continued to be a major embarrassment. Her successor, Oliver Véran, told the French “masks serve no purpose” until France finally obtained enough masks and then forced everybody to wear them, even in the street. Macron’s Senegalese born spokesperson, Sibeth Ndiaye, told so many lies and contradictions that she became such a humiliation she was force to resign in July 2020.
A number of other aids and Ministers involved in everything from sending ‘Dick Pixs’ over the internet (Benjamin Griveaux) to financial and political corruption investigations and charges (François Bayrou, Sylvie Goulard, Murielle de Sarnez, Laura Flessel, François de Rugy and more) are in the long list of scandals. It got so embarrassing that Macon had to replace his Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, July 3, 2020, one week before a major cabinet reshuffle in an effort to save Philippe some face. The disgraced ex-Prime Minister was then elected mayor of Le Havre. Almost all Macron’s dishonored aids and ministers were given cushy new jobs or were sent to a safe place to get elected to something.