On Wednesday, the Council of Ministers rolled out the bill to extend the health pass until July 31, 2022. Established on July 21 for cultural, sports and leisure venues then on August 9 in cafes, bars and restaurants , transport and health facilities, the health pass was initially due to end on November 15. The government intends to ensure the possibility of being able to use braking measures again for 8 months, including the application of the health pass, but also the local limitation of the movement of people and the closure of establishments, in the event of resumption of the epidemic.
On October 5, the Scientific Council issued an opinion, entitled “A peaceful situation: When and how to alleviate?”, Followed on October 6 by a second opinion on the health vigilance bill, made public on Wednesday. What was he recommending regarding the health pass?
The health pass, not necessarily responsible for improving the health situation
In its opinion of October 5, the Scientific Council reported an improved health situation, with a fourth wave much smaller than expected: “This situation is largely linked to the success of vaccination in the general population, with today 50.5 million French people vaccinated, including 73% of adolescents aged 12 to 17 “.
The Scientific Council recognizes that the health pass has made it possible to accelerate the vaccination of French people aged 20 to 49, but notes that “its role in the vaccination of adolescents (…) is less clear”. The Council does not link health pass and protection of individuals either. “The health pass was put in place at the beginning of August when the decrease in the Delta variant epidemic rather occurred around July 20. It may have contributed to this decrease. period when certain places at risk were located mainly outdoors (restaurant terraces, cultural events, etc.) “.
A still fragile epidemiological situation
If the Scientific Council considers the situation “appeased” with a low viral circulation and a high level of vaccination, some limits persist. First of all, “a still too large number of people at risk, in particular people over the age of 75, remain unvaccinated,” warns the organization. According to data from the Ministry of Health, 86% of people over the age of 80 are fully vaccinated, while this rate reaches 98% among 70-74 year olds. This rate is higher among our European neighbors.
The onset of winter and the drop in temperatures also raise fears of a resurgence of the epidemic. Finally, doubts persist as to the duration of efficacy of the vaccines. “The latest data available to us from Israel, the United States, and the United Kingdom show a decrease in vaccine efficacy against symptomatic infection by the Delta variant with a protection which drops by 90% two months after the second. 50% dose six months after the second dose “, specifies the Scientific Council. The hypothesis of the arrival of a new variant cannot be excluded either.
But a risk of a major health degradation limited
According to the Scientific Council, the level of vaccination reached in the population should prevent the return of a very degraded health situation justifying the implementation of radical measures such as confinement or curfew.
“If the current measures and behavior are maintained, we do not expect a significant resumption of the epidemic, even when taking into account the cooling of temperatures”, considers the institution. On the other hand, in the context of a relaxation of restrictive measures, such as the health pass, “Covid-19 is still likely to affect the health of a large number of French people and generate significant pressure on the hospital system” . But saturation of hospitals is not envisaged by the Scientific Council, except in the event of a concomitant influenza epidemic.
The pass, “a temporary tool”
“Although the use of the health pass is generally accepted, the Scientific Council, which proposed and supported its implementation, wishes to recall that the pass must remain a temporary and proportionate tool”, warn the members. If the epidemiological situation continues to improve, its use will therefore no longer be proportionate. The Scientific Council “wishes to warn today of the risk of a trivialization of the health pass and the associated control measures”. However, “the health authorities must be able to continue to use the health pass if it remains or becomes necessary again, in the event of a significant deterioration in the epidemiological situation”.
In its opinion of October 6 made public on Wednesday, the Scientific Council concludes that “alongside the very question of the reduction of the measures and their proportionality, the probably more operational question is that of the ‘best time’ to do so. , including a phase of preparation and pedagogy allowing to obtain a good understanding and a adhesion by the citizens “.
The date of July 31, 2022 justified
The Scientific Council “finally perceives the operational need for this duration” greater than 8 months, after having been initially “challenged by the date of July 31, 2022”. This date is justified “given the persistence of potential risks until this deadline and the constraints of the parliamentary and electoral calendar during the first semester”.
However, the Scientific Council insists on the proportionality of the adopted legal framework. “It must be a question of making possible the implementation, at any time, of levers to curb the epidemic but only to the extent and for the strictly necessary duration that the reality of the risk justifies”. He advocates a bill where the health pass could be activated “if the health situation warrants it”, and stopped “provisionally or definitively in the event of favorable development”.
On leaving the Council of Ministers, government spokesman Gabriel Attal indicated that the bill provided for “until July 31, if and only if it is necessary, to supervise the activity of establishments open to the public and to require a health pass “, thus following the recommendations of the scientific organization.