More than 1 million people in France made vaccine appointments in less than a day, according to figures released Tuesday, after the president cranked up pressure on everyone to get vaccinated to save the summer vacation season and the French economy.
Some bristled at President Emmanuel Macron’s admonition to “get vaccinated!” immediately, but many people signed up for shots, accepting that getting injected was the only way to return to some semblance of pre-pandemic life.
Macron also announced that special COVID-19 passes will be required starting in early August to enter restaurants and shopping malls and to get on trains and planes. The announcement raised questions and worries among foreign tourists and as residents of France planning vacations.
An app that centralizes France’s vaccine appointments, Doctolib, said Tuesday that 1.3 million people signed up for injections after Macron gave a televised address Monday night. It was a daily record since France rolled out coronavirus vaccines in December. People under age 35 made up most of the new appointments, Doctolib said.
Macron said vaccination would be obligatory for all health care workers by Sept. 15, and he held out the possibility of extending the requirement to others. Around 41% of the French population has been fully vaccinated, though the pace of shots being delivered has waned as summer vacations approached.
Government spokesman Attal insisted the vaccine mandate wasn’t meant to “stigmatize” reluctant health workers but to limit risks to the vulnerable populations they care for.
Some people said they’re now getting vaccinated because Macron also announced that France will start charging money for some virus tests, which up to now have all been free for anyone in French territory.
To get the COVID pass that will soon be required in all restaurants, people must have proof of vaccination or recent virus infection, or a negative test from the last 48 hours.
Restaurant and bar unions demanded a delay for the passes, and government officials were meeting with industry representatives Tuesday. Restaurant workers expressed concern with enforcing the requirement and fear it could scare customers away after all French eating establishments stayed shuttered for nine months from the pandemic's onset.
Health Minister Olivier Veran defended the new rule, saying, “The question is: It's lockdown or the health pass.”
More than 111,000 people with the virus have died in France.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press.