PARIS (AP) – France took a giant step towards a post-pandemic future on Monday by requiring people to show a QR code proving they had a special virus pass before enjoying restaurants and cafes or travel across the country by plane, train or bus.
The move is part of a government plan to encourage more people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and slow a surge in infections as the highly contagious Delta variant now accounts for most of the cases in France. Over 36 million people in France, or more than 54% of the population, are fully vaccinated.
The special pass is issued to people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, have evidence of a recent recovery from the virus, or have a recent negative test. The measure also applies to tourists visiting the country.
In the southern city of Marseille, several restaurant owners failed to check customers for their passports, an Associated Press reporter saw on Monday. Many in the entertainment industry are annoyed that the government is forcing them to do this type of job.
The owner of the backstage restaurant and bar in a theater district on Paris’s Left Bank said the checks made him feel like a cop, but he was still following government orders.
“That includes putting on another cap,” said Pierre Arnoux. “We have to ask the customer whether he is – yes or no – allowed to have a drink in my restaurant. This is rather unusual. I have to admit, this is not for me. “
Arnoux said the crowd was small on Monday and customers were cooperative, but the request was a tedious one.
One customer, Myriam Karmasine, said she was prepared and it “wasn’t a problem” and another, Sonia Hamiche, said she didn’t care either.
“But I’ve noticed that there are fewer people outside than usual on the streets and on the terraces,” said Hamiche. “I think that must have stopped certain people.”
Those without a passport who require this risk a fine of 135 euros. The French government said for the first week of implementation that police checks will not result in penalties for non-compliance, but will instead be an opportunity to explain the law.
In hospitals, visitors and patients who have appointments need the ID. Exceptions apply to people in the emergency room.
The pass is now required on high-speed, intercity and night trains that carry over 400,000 passengers a day in France, Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said on Monday. It is also required for long-distance travel by plane or bus.
“We will enforce massive controls,” said Djebbari.
Paris Saint-Germain football club will be sold out on Saturday for their first home game of the season against Strasbourg in the French league. Paris Prefecture has admitted 49,700 fans to the Parc des Princes stadium who are expected to show their virus passes, according to PSG.
Surveys show that most French people support the health passport. At least 7 million people have received their first vaccination since President Emmanuel Macron announced the measure on July 12.
However, the measure has generated strong resistance from some people who say they are compromising their freedoms by restricting movement outside the home. On Saturday, thousands of demonstrators marched in Paris and other French cities for a fourth straight week to protest against the measure.
The virus pass has been valid for cultural and leisure facilities such as cinemas, concert halls, sports arenas and amusement parks since last month.
The law also requires French health care workers to be vaccinated against the virus by September 15.
Patrick Hermansen contributed from Paris.
Follow all AP stories on the global pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic
The associated press journalist Daniel Cole in Marseille contributed to this.