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French Health Minister Olivier Véran. Wikipedia; Marine Le Pen. Wikipedia; Covid-19 test. Photo credit: Prashesh Shiwakoti

French government gives up on compulsory vaccination after fierce opposition

Faced with an outcry sparked by a text that announced the possibility of imposing a de facto vaccination obligation, the French Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, postponed the project sine die.

Published: December 23, 2020, 7:52 am

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    Presented at the Council of Ministers on Monday by the French Prime Minister Jean Castex, the text established “a lasting health emergency management regime” which was tabled a few hours later, in an accelerated procedure in the National Assembly.

    The purpose of the text, according to the spokesman of the government, Gabriel Attal, was to “prepare for the end of the health emergency on April 1, 2021” and “establish a sustainable legal framework deal concerning health crises”.

    But faced with a huge outcry – on the right and on the left – the government has decided to withdraw the controversial bill. Véran announced the withdrawal on Tuesday evening on national broadcaster TF1: “Vaccination will not be compulsory. It is a bad controversy coming from the National Rally […]. The government will propose to postpone the text for several months,” said the minister.

    According to the controversial bill, “the Prime Minister may […] make the movement of people, their access to means of transport or to certain places, as well as the exercise of certain activities subject to the presentation of the results of a screening test establishing that the person is not affected or contaminated, following a preventive treatment, including the administration of a vaccine, or a curative treatment”.

    The number two of the Republicans party, Guillaume Peltier, reacted strongly on Twitter: “What is Emmanuel Macron hiding? I naively believed that in our homeland, respect for freedoms was the rule and its restrictions the exception. In this case, the executive would have all the power to suspend our freedoms without parliamentary control? Inconceivable. ”

    For the Senate Law Committee, it is not acceptable that such decisions are taken by decree, without ever being debated in Parliament. The latter is only “informed” according to the bill . “Keeping infected people in isolation, or quarantining contact cases, represents a deprivation of liberty as it must be examined by Parliament!” said François-Noël Buffet.

    “That the government considers that the Prime Minister alone has fundamental freedoms is very worrying ,” said Bruno Retailleau. “No good intention justifies such a decision. In the event of a health crisis, the implementation of custodial measures must remain the exclusive competence of Parliament,” the president of the LR group in the Senate said .

    Sébastien Chenu told France 2: “All that is very dangerous” and “that would mean that vaccination must be compulsory.” Chenu, the spokesperson for the RN, denounced the imposed “health dictatorship”.

    Marine Le Pen noted that there should be no “second-class citizenship for unvaccinated individuals – it is deeply deleterious and liberticidal”. The RN leader branded the vaccine measure as “essentially totalitarian”.

    Above all, this bill appeared to contradict the commitment made by the executive. “I do not believe in compulsory vaccination for this vaccine,” Emmanuel Macron had declared during his interview with Brut.

    In an attempt to put out the fire and allay the fears of the French, several ministers and officials close to Macron commented. “No, vaccination against Covid will not be compulsory,” said the president of the LREM deputies, Christophe Castaner. The text “is not there at all to create exceptional powers for the government” or “to perpetuate the state of emergency, it is there to strengthen our crisis management”, argued the Minister of Public Service, Amélie de Montchalin.

    On Tuesday evening, Olivier Véran provisionally ended the controversy by withdrawing the text.

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