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The health pass, a controversial tool to get out of the Covid-19 crisis

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The French Senate begins on Tuesday the examination of the bill on the way out of the health crisis, which must ratify the creation of a health pass. This new system should allow access to events of more than 1,000 people and free movement within the EU. However, it raises questions, in particular on data protection.

After having been approved last week by the National Assembly, The bill relating to the management of the exit from the health crisis arrives, Tuesday, May 18, in the Senate. This text, which provides for a transition period before the lifting of the state of health emergency at the end of September, includes the establishment of a health pass. Sesame needed to access certain events from June 9, it should also allow the lifting of restrictions on travel within the EU. This measure, supposed to accelerate the return to normal life while limiting the risks of contamination, nevertheless arouses lively debates within the political class. Explanations.

What is the health pass?

With the improvement in the health situation in France and the progress of vaccination against Covid-19, the government wishes to revive economic activity as quickly as possible while avoiding an epidemic resumption. In addition to extending a curfew until the end of June, the executive is banking on the establishment of a health pass. To access certain places and events bringing together “a large number of people”, it will be necessary to present proof of a negative RT-PCR or antigen test of less than 48 hours, a certificate of recovery from Covid-19 or a certificate of vaccination. This document can be stored in the TousAntiCovid application, or presented in paper format.

The measure, which should come into force on June 9, does not concern “activities of daily life (restaurant, shops, public services)”, specify the text. On the other hand, the health pass will be required for events bringing together more than 1,000 people, indoor or outdoor, such as trade fairs and exhibitions, sports festivals and competitions, or even certain cruises.

health pass
health pass © France 24

A European version in the pipeline

If the government provides for a specific use of the health pass in France, its operation is the same as the digital green certificate (Digital Green Pass) proposed by the European Commission. Currently under study, this “European pass” aims to facilitate the free movement of EU citizens as well as foreign nationals present in the territory. This certificate aims to harmonize the entry and exit rules between countries in the bloc, until now left to the discretion of each state.

Thus, people who can prove proof of vaccination (vaccine authorized in the EU), a test of less than 72 hours or a certificate of recovery could move within the EU without having to submit to quarantines or additional tests. While no official date has been announced for the launch of this digital green certificate, Secretary of State for European Affairs Clément Beaune said on Sunday that it should be in place at the end of June.

Lively debates

In France, the planned use of the health pass for major events is causing heated debate within the political class. Because if the government says that it will only concern gatherings of more than 1,000 people, this threshold has not been included in the text “in order to preserve a certain flexibility and adaptability in its implementation” . During debates in the National Assembly, some opposition deputies denounced a vague text that could lead to abuses. In its opinion issued on May 12, the National Commission for Informatics and Freedoms (Cnil) called for an “explicit” ban on the use of the pass by those in charge of places not affected by the system.

At European level, the green certificate, presented as an essential tool for boosting tourism, has also not been unanimous since its presentation by the European Commission in mid-March. Asked about France 24, the German Patrick Breyer, MEP, then judged the guarantees insufficient data protection : “There is no guarantee that the certificate is stored on the person’s device and not in a central immunization register.” While the information “cannot be kept by the countries visited”, underlines the European Commission, health data “remains the responsibility of the Member State which issued a digital green certificate”.

Another sensitive subject is the potentially discriminatory nature of the measure: while vaccination is progressing rapidly in most European countries, large disparities persist. While in Germany, more than 36% of the population has received at least a first dose of vaccine, this rate is only 10% in Bulgaria. Added to this is the disparity in access to tests, the prices of which vary greatly by state. These are all factors that could accentuate the inequalities of travel within the European Union.


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