French President Emmanuel Macron has ordered all health care workers to have coronavirus vaccines by September 15 and urged all his citizens to get vaccinated as soon as possible, to fight resurgent infections that are threatening the country’s economic recovery.
In a televised address, he also mandated special Covid-19 passes for anyone who wants to go to a restaurant, shopping centre or hospital or get on a train or plane.
To get a pass, people must be fully vaccinated, have a fresh negative virus test or have proof they have recently recovered from the virus.
The Delta variant is driving France’s virus infections back up again, just as the country kicked off the summer holiday season after a long-awaited reopening process.
Some 40% of France’s population is fully vaccinated but there are pockets of vaccine scepticism.
“Get vaccinated!” was the president’s overall message. He even tweeted a gif of himself repeating the phrase.
“The country is facing a strong resumption of the epidemic touching all our territory,” Mr Macron said. He stopped short of any new lockdown measures, saying “we have to live with the virus”.
“The equation is simple. The more we vaccinate, the less space we leave this virus to circulate.”
He said his centrist French government would declare a medical state of emergency again starting on Tuesday, which allows more freedom to impose virus restrictions.
Most European governments have shied away from mandating vaccinations, but after tens of thousands of people died in French nursing homes with the virus, Mr Macron said vaccination is essential for all health care workers, nursing home workers and workers or volunteers who care for the elderly or ailing at home.
Those who do not get vaccinated by September 15 will face potential sanctions or fines, he added.
In France, vaccines are widely available for anyone 12 and over, but take-up has ebbed in recent weeks because of vaccine hesitancy, a sense that the virus is no longer a threat, and because some people decided to put off their jabs until after summer holidays.
Demand started rising again over the weekend as people braced for Mr Macron’s announcements.
He also announced that France will start charging money for some virus tests, which up to now have been free.