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French lawmakers to vote on COVID vaccine pass amid death threats

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Dozens of French lawmakers have reported receiving death threats from suspected anti-vaccination protesters, as parliament starts to debate legislation that would require people to show proof of vaccination to go to a restaurant or cinema or take the train, according to Reuters.

The new law which would do away with the option to show a negative test instead of having the jabs, has the backing of most parties and is almost certain to be passed by the lower house in a vote late on Monday or early on Tuesday.

France has traditionally had more vaccine sceptics than many of its EU neighbours, but has one of the bloc’s highest COVID-19 vaccination rates, with nearly 90% of those aged 12 and over now fully vaccinated.

The proposed tightening of the rules has nevertheless caused an upsurge of anger among anti-vaxxers, with some lawmakers saying they have been subject to aggression including vandalism of property and violent threats.

“Our democracy is in danger,” said centre-right lawmaker Agnes Firmin Le Bodo, who on Sunday posted on Twitter an email she received containing graphic threats to kill her over her support for the vaccination pass.

Firmin Le Bodo, who is also a pharmacist and vaccinates people against COVID-19, said she would not back down on her support for vaccination or for the vaccine pass. But she told BFM TV on Monday that the threats did make her wonder whether to run for a second term as a lawmaker in June.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said last week that police would strengthen protections for lawmakers after other members of parliament, including Barbara Bessot Ballot of ruling party La Republique en Marche, also went public with death threats.

Bessot Ballot said a total of 52 lawmakers had received messages threatening to kill them for “attacking our freedom”, adding on Twitter: “Those death threats are unacceptable.”

“Our battle is against Covid, and not against liberties,” she said.

France has for months asked people to show either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to go to a wide array of public venues. But amid a huge surge in infections with the Delta and Omicron variants, and with most people vaccinated, the government has decided to do away with the negative test option.

It aims for the vaccine pass to enter into force in mid-January, once it has been approved by both houses of parliament. Protesters are due to gather in front of parliament at 5 p.m. on Monday, as the debate takes place inside.