France has passed a new law requiring vaccine passes to be shown in its restaurants, bars, tourist sites and sports venues by everyone, unless they have recently recovered from the virus.
The requirement, which is central to the government’s anti-virus strategy, means people who are not vaccinated will not be allowed in these public spaces.
France has been experiencing Europe’s highest-ever daily case numbers for coronavirus infections, and its hospitals are continuing to fill up with COVID patients.
The government has imposed few other restrictions amid the surge in the Omicron variant, focusing instead on the vaccine pass, approved by France’s parliament and Constitutional Council last week.
Omicron is less likely to cause severe illness than the previous Delta variant, according to studies.
It spreads even more easily than other coronavirus strains and has already become dominant in many countries, including the UK.
Omicron also more easily infects those who have been vaccinated or had previously been infected by prior versions of the virus.
Critics question whether the pass will make much difference in a country where 94% of French adults have had at least one vaccine dose, and scattered groups held protests on Saturday against the new law.
The government hopes that it protects the most vulnerable and reduces pressure on crowded ICUs, where most patients are unvaccinated.
Since last summer, France has required a “health pass” to go to any cafe, museum, cinema or take a regional train or domestic flight.
But until Monday, unvaccinated people could activate the pass by getting a recent negative test.
The new pass only works for people who are fully vaccinated, and those who recently recovered from the virus.
France, meanwhile, opened up access to booster shots to 12 to 17-year-olds on Monday.