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French lawmakers approve COVID-19 health pass to reopen economy

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A passenger shows his mobile phone with an uploaded antigen and PCR test prior to board at the Paris-Orly airport, in Orly, south of Paris,  April 27, 2021.
A passenger shows his mobile phone with an uploaded antigen and PCR test prior to board at the Paris-Orly airport, in Orly, south of Paris, April 27, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Thibault Camus
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French lawmakers on Wednesday approved the creation of a COVID-19 health pass to enable international travel and large gatherings.

The bill was backed by MPs in the early hours after the government was forced to rewrite the first article over the timing of the end of the COVID-19 state of emergency.

The Senate will vote on the bill on May 18.

It was adopted after Emmanuel Macron's ruling La Republique en Marche (LREM) party was dealt a blow by its allies, the centrist MoDem party, over the length of France's state of emergency.

The government had wanted the state of emergency - during which it can impose restrictions without consulting parliament - to last from June 2 until October 31, a move that was refused by lawmakers.

Instead, the transition period will last until late September.

The bill also allows the prime minister to set a curfew until June 30, although it cannot begin until 9 pm at the earliest, and establishes a "health pass", which the government is hoping can begin the gradual reopening of the economy.

France started easing its third national lockdown last week with people once more allowed to travel across the country.

The next phase is scheduled for May 19. On that day, the nighttime curfew will be pushed back by two hours to run from 9 pm to 6 am, outdoor drinking and dining will be allowed and cultural venues including cinemas, theatres, and museums will reopen.

On June 9, capacity at cultural and sporting events will be increased to 5,000, large gatherings including exhibitions and fairs will be allowed to proceed and foreign tourists will be free to visit.

But this will be dependent on the health pass.

France has already launched a health pass allowing its citizens and residents who have either been vaccinated, have recovered from the disease or have tested negative over the previous 72 hours to travel to the country's overseas territories.

The government has said that it will be easily convertible when the European Union's version launches. The Digital Green Certificate, which aims to facilitate free movement within the 27-country bloc, is expected to be made available in June.

The EU has also indicated that foreigners who have been fully inoculated with vaccines recognised by the European Medicines Agency should be allowed to enter the bloc.

The MoDem had also warned the government it could rebel over the pass, demanding greater clarity on how it will be used and calling on the government to allow its use to reopen nightclubs.

The government has so far ruled out a reopening of nightclubs until June 30, making it one of the last industries to remain closed.

To ward off the rebellion, the executive has included a clause to review the situation for nightclubs in June.

France is continental Europe's second worst-hit country after Italy with nearly 107,000 deaths recorded since the beginning of the outbreak.

The government aims for 70 percent of its adult population to be inoculated by the end of July.

As of Tuesday, more than 27 percent of the population had received at least one dose while 12.7 percent have been fully vaccinated.