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People Will Soon Need A Vaccine Pass Or Negative Test To Enter France's Restaurants

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The prospect of having to show a so-called COVID vaccine passport is controversial, but that is essentially about to happen in France, where about 40% of the public is fully vaccinated. With the delta variant rising, President Emmanuel Macron will require health care, nursing home, restaurant and bar workers to get the vaccine, and everyone will have to show proof of inoculation or a negative test to do just about anything in public. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOORBELL)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking French).

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: The doorbell and the phones have been ringing nonstop in this Paris doctor's office, as people clamor to get the vaccine. Receptionist Katie Braka is buzzing people in the door while she works two phones.

(SOUNDBITE OF BUZZ)

KATIE BRAKA: (Through interpreter) Since Macron's speech, we've been completely underwater. I'm going as fast as I can. Everybody wants to get vaccinated now. And they love Johnson & Johnson because it's just one dose.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: On Monday, in his eighth address to the nation about the pandemic, Macron warned France is in a race against time against the spread of the delta variant.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MACRON: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: "We are a nation of science, of Louis Pasteur," he said. "The vaccine is our only way back to normal life." So far, shots are not mandatory for everyone, but starting in August, people will have to show a vaccine pass or negative test if they want any kind of social life - if they want to go to bars, restaurants, museums or get on a train. And as of September, COVID tests will no longer be free. Before Macron's speech, vaccinations had plateaued. After his speech, the country's appointment platform nearly crashed, as 2.5 million people rushed to get a first dose.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: This week, in this French television broadcast, the journalist described a previously empty vaccination center as a teeming anthill before interviewing several people.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JEANNE LECLERC: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: "Right after Macron spoke, we made an appointment because we realized we couldn't do anything if we weren't vaccinated," says Jeanne LeClerc.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHARLOTTE PINAULT: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: "It's a new vaccine, so I'm still wary," says restaurant owner Charlotte Pinault. "But I have no choice because I'll have to close if I don't get it."

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in French).

BEARDSLEY: Polls show 10% of the French population say they will not get the COVID vaccine no matter the pressure. Thousands of vaccine skeptics hooked up with others, including anti-Macron yellow vest protesters to demonstrate in several cities this week. They chanted liberte and we are not your guinea pigs.

(CROSSTALK)

BEARDSLEY: At an outdoor cafe in Paris' 15th arrondissement, two friends argue about Macron's vaccination approach over lunch. They won't give their last names so they can speak openly about a sensitive topic. Guillaume, a communications executive, says the president is acting like a dictator.

GUILLAUME: I mean, you cannot separate different people, different rights, not going to restaurants, to hospitals, to get a train, just because you're not vaccinated. It's not democracy.

BEARDSLEY: Guillaume's friend Kamel disagrees.

KAMEL: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: He says the French don't have the luxury of debating the vaccine while others are dying horrible deaths from COVID with no access to vaccines at all.

Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.