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France’s top court says no to vaccine pass at political rallies

PARIS – France’s Constitutional court greenlighted the government’s vaccine passport on Friday, but said it should not be required for political events during the ongoing presidential campaign.

France is battling a fresh wave of COVID-19 infections, with daily cases reaching record highs due to the Omicron variant.

Currently, the French are required to present an COVID-19 immunity passport – proof either of vaccination or of a negative test – to enter public venues. The government put forward a new, ramped-up pass, expected to come into effect Monday, which means banning the unvaccinated from many public places.

Citizens will be required to present proof of vaccination to get access to restaurants, cafés and theaters among other public venues.

But the court ruled that the vaccine pass should not be required at political rallies and meetings, citing that “the freedom of expression and communication… is all the more precious because its exercise is one of the conditions of democracy.”

The French will be heading to the polls for the presidential election in April and for parliamentary elections in June. President Emmanuel Macron is widely expected to seek reelection and is already facing a crowded field of candidates.

The decision puts an end to a protracted battle in parliament.

In its ruling, the members of the court wrote that while the pass did “infringe on people’s right to come and go”, it was designed to protect people’s health.

“In adopting these disputed measures, lawmakers are allowing public authorities to take measures to fight the COVID-19 epidemic thanks to the vaccine. Their objective is to defend the constitutional right to the protection of health,” they wrote.

French lawmakers had appealed to the court to rule on whether the pass was constitutional, particularly the decision to allow café and restaurant owners to check the vaccine passes against the identity documents of their customers.

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