France took a big step into a post-pandemic future on Monday by demanding that people show a QR code proving they have a special anti-virus pass before they can enjoy restaurants and cafes or travel across the country .
The measure is part of a government plan to encourage more people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and slow an upsurge in infections, as the highly contagious delta variant now accounts for most cases in France. More than 36 million people in France, or more than 54% of the population, are fully vaccinated.
The special pass is issued to people who are vaccinated against COVID-19, or who have proof of recent recovery from the virus or who have recently tested negative. The measure also applies to tourists visiting the country. All adults will need the pass, unless they are medically exempt. It will be compulsory for 12 to 17 year olds from September 30.
In hospitals, visitors and patients who have an appointment are required to have the pass. Exceptions are made for people requiring urgent care in the emergency department.
The pass is now mandatory on high-speed, interurban and night trains, which carry more than 400,000 passengers per day in France, said on Monday the head of the Ministry of Transport, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari. It is also required for long-distance air or bus travel.
“We are going to impose massive checks,” Djebbari said.
Paper or digital documents are accepted.
Polls show that most French people support the health pass. But the measure has met strong opposition from some people who say it compromises their freedoms by restricting movement and daily activities outside the home.
On Saturday, thousands of protesters marched in Paris and other French cities for a fourth consecutive week of protests against the measure.
The health pass was already in place since last month for cultural and recreational venues, including cinemas, concert halls, sports arenas and theme parks.
The law also requires that French health workers be vaccinated against the virus before September 15.
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What is happening in the world
As of Monday, more than 202.8 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to the coronavirus tracker maintained by American University Johns Hopkins. The death toll worldwide was over 4.4 million.
In the Asia Pacific region, the Australian pharmaceutical regulator has granted interim approval for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday,
The first million doses of the Moderna vaccine will arrive in September, with a total of 10 million doses arriving this year, Morrison said. Australia agreed in May to purchase 25 million doses of the vaccine.
With just 22% of Australians over 16 fully vaccinated, Morrison has been criticized for a slow vaccine rollout. He acknowledged the growing frustrations, but urged people to be patient.
In the Philippines, nearly a fifth of hospitals are nearing full capacity due to an increase in COVID-19 infections, driven by the delta variant of the virus, the country’s health ministry said on Monday.
Coronavirus cases in the Philippines, a country of 110 million people, have increased at a rate of around 8,000 to 10,000 infections per day in recent weeks, above the daily average of 5,700 reported cases last month, according to official data.
In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is reopening Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina to overseas pilgrims to make the smaller pilgrimage known as “umrah”.
State media reported that for the first time since the pandemic prompted the government to close Mecca to international travelers, the kingdom will gradually begin to receive requests from Umrah pilgrims from various countries around the world, from Monday.
Travelers will need to prove they have been vaccinated and will need to be quarantined if traveling from countries still on the kingdom’s red list, which include many countries that once sent the most pilgrims each year. The government plans to increase the capacity of pilgrims to two million per month.
In Africa, more than 6.9 million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed on the continent since the start of the pandemic in early 2020, and around 176,000 deaths have been attributed to the disease, according to the Regional Office of the World Health Organization for Africa.
In the Americas, the cumulative total of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States exceeded 35.76 million on Sunday, with the death toll reaching 616,828, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.