PARIS (AP) — France’s government is forging ahead with efforts to increase pressure on unvaccinated people to get coronavirus shots, as the country reported 208,000 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday — a record fueled by the omicron variant.
Health Minister Olivier Veran on Wednesday defended a government plan to allow only the fully vaccinated to enjoy continued access to places such as restaurants, cinemas, theaters, museums, and sports arenas. The pass will also be required on inter-regional trains and buses and domestic flights.
Veran said at a parliamentary hearing that the record number of infections means that more than two French people are testing positive every second for COVID-19. Veran estimated that about 10% of the French population has been in contact recently with a person infected with the virus.
Speaking to those not vaccinated, he said: “There is really little chance that this time you can escape (COVID-19): The virus is spreading too fast.” Veran said that in Paris public hospitals, 70% of people hospitalized in intensive care units aren’t vaccinated.
He also advised the most vulnerable people who didn’t get the vaccine booster shot yet to “protect yourself in the coming days. Don’t take risks.”
The speeded-up introduction of the so-called vaccine pass forms part of a government strategy to use vaccinations, rather than new lockdowns, to try to soften the impact of the fast-spreading omicron variant on already overburdened hospitals.