To nobody’s great surprise, France’s Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, announced last week that the Covid Passport may have to be extended beyond 15 November – the initial expiry date of the government’s controversial measure, first introduced in July. I’ll hazard a guess that come April 2022 the French will still have to show their passport to enter cafes, shopping centres, sports clubs and cinemas.
April, of course, is the date of the presidential election and Emmanuel Macron is banking on his response to Covid helping him to secure a second term. His belief is that the electorate, particularly the over-50s, will be reluctant to change presidents in the midst of a pandemic. Better the devil, and all that.
So the French should become accustomed to the Covid Passport, which as of this week is obligatory for 1.8m people employed in the culture, hospitality, transport and retail sectors. Some employers will work with recalcitrant workers – for instance, giving them a different task which doesn’t require a passport; but at other workplaces, a refusal to carry the pass, or submit to a PCR test every three days, could result in suspension of pay.
As of last week, 72 per cent of adults have received a first dose of the vaccine, and 58 a second, but that is immaterial; Macron’s strategy is to portray himself as the implacable president against this wicked virus on which he declared war last year. And the best way for a leader to boost his standing among his people is by defeating a strong enemy, not a weak one. That is why Covid, in the eyes of Macron’s government, remains such a danger, despite the fact the vaccine has worked wonders in reducing rates of hospitalisation and death. It might be an idea if the French brace themselves to be hit by a ‘fifth wave’ of Covid before Christmas, and a ‘sixth wave’ to strike in the New Year.