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France will introduce new vaccination passport rules for visitors to cafes and restaurants starting next week, the government announced tonight.

In a live television address Thursday night, Prime Minister Jean Castex said the controversial new document will be mandatory for those who want to visit cafes, restaurants and a variety of other businesses from next week.

Meanwhile, Austria’s lower house of parliament on Thursday passed a bill making COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for adults from February 1.

The passage of the bill brings Austria closer to the introduction of the first coronavirus vaccine mandate of its kind in the European Union.

The moves by France and Austria come amid a surge in Covid-19 cases on the continent, fueled by the highly infectious Omicron variant.

Official data shows cases skyrocketing in France and on the rise in countries like Portugal, Germany, Austria, Sweden and the Czech Republic. Cases are also high in Italy and Spain, although they appear to have stabilized in recent days.

But as cases rise on the continent, Britain’s Covid figures show the end is in sight. Having peaked in early January, the UK now has one of the lowest rates.

France will introduce new vaccination passport rules for visitors to cafes and restaurants starting next week, the government announced tonight. Pictured: Pedestrians walk near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, on January 17, 2022

Until now, a negative Covid test was enough to get people in France into cafes, restaurants and other hospitality businesses, but a double vaccination and booster dose will be essential from next week to obtain a passport.

“The vaccination pass will take effect next Monday,” Castex said. ‘This wave is not over, but things are getting positively involved.’

France hit a new daily record for Covid infections on Tuesday, recording nearly half a million new cases.

Mr. Castex’s country revealed 464,769 cases during the previous 24 hours, despite a series of dictates being imposed in a desperate attempt to stem the rise in the number of cases.

These included forcing children as young as six to wear masks and prohibiting drinking while standing in cafes or bars.

Castex said such measures would be lifted in the next two weeks, but vaccinations for children ages 12 to 17 will begin on January 24.

The Prime Minister added: ‘We also need to make progress on vaccinating children aged 5-11.’

It will no longer be necessary to wear masks outside from February 2, and there will also be a decrease in people working from home.

France’s hard-line passport measures contrast sharply with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s approach.

Official data shows cases skyrocketing in France and on the rise in countries like Portugal, Germany, Austria, Sweden and the Czech Republic.  Cases are also high in Italy and Spain, although they appear to have stabilized in recent days.

Official data shows cases skyrocketing in France and on the rise in countries like Portugal, Germany, Austria, Sweden and the Czech Republic. Cases are also high in Italy and Spain, although they appear to have stabilized in recent days.

France's Prime Minister Jean Castex speaks Thursday, announcing the controversial new vaccine passport document that will be mandatory for those who want to visit cafes, restaurants and a variety of other businesses starting next week.

France’s Prime Minister Jean Castex speaks Thursday, announcing the controversial new vaccine passport document that will be mandatory for those who want to visit cafes, restaurants and a variety of other businesses starting next week.

Meanwhile, Austria’s parliament on Thursday approved making Covid-19 vaccines mandatory for adults from next month, becoming the first European country to do so despite a wave of protests against the move.

The Austrian government, faced with a stubbornly high number of vaccine withholdings and a surge in infections, said in November that it was planning for the mandate. It has since raised the age from which the mandate will apply, from 14 to 18.

The bill must now pass the upper house and be signed by President Alexander Van der Bellen, steps that will largely be formalities.

Tens of thousands have demonstrated against compulsory vaccination at regular weekend rallies since the move was announced in November in a bid to boost the country’s vaccination rate.

All parties except the far right supported the move, and the new legislation passed with 137 votes in favor and 33 votes against in the 183-seat parliament.

“It is adopted with the (necessary) majority,” said Doris Bures, second president of the National Council.

To date, 72 percent of Austrian residents have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, in line with the European Union-wide average of just over 70 percent, but several percentage points below regional neighbors such as Italy and France.

Under the new law, which takes effect on February 4, those who resist the jab can face fines of up to 3,600 euros ($4,100) starting in mid-March after an initial “introductory phase.”

Initially, the government wanted to cover everyone over the age of 14, but now the measure only applies to adults, except for pregnant women and those with a medical exemption.

Pictured: The Austrian parliament in Vienna, Thursday, January 20, 2022. The parliament voted to introduce a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for adults, the first of its kind in Europe.

Pictured: The Austrian parliament in Vienna, Thursday, January 20, 2022. The parliament voted to introduce a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for adults, the first of its kind in Europe.

The overwhelming majority of parliamentarians from all parties voted in favor of the law, with the leaders of the opposition Social Democrats (SPOe) and the liberal NEOS giving their backing to the centre-right-green coalition.

The only significant opposition came from the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), which has courted anti-vaccine voters.

FPOe leader Herbert Kickl criticized the law in Thursday’s charged parliamentary debate, saying it “opens the way to totalitarianism in Austria”.

He promised that he himself would continue to refuse to be vaccinated in defiance of the new law.

“Vaccination is an opportunity for our society to achieve lasting and continuing freedom, because the virus cannot restrict us anymore,” center-right Chancellor Karl Nehammer told reporters before the debate.

Green Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein called during the debate for “all citizens to question the myths around vaccination”, insisting that “all evidence indicates that the vaccines available in Austria are safe”.

Tens of thousands have demonstrated against compulsory vaccination at regular weekend rallies in Austria since the move was announced in November in a bid to boost the country's vaccination rate.

Tens of thousands have demonstrated against compulsory vaccination at regular weekend rallies in Austria since the move was announced in November in a bid to boost the country’s vaccination rate.

However, some Austrians remain unconvinced of the merits of vaccination, with a couple of hundred opponents of the law gathering for a noisy protest near parliament on Thursday morning.

Teacher Kerstin said she felt the law went against the constitution and ignored the fact that ‘we are meant to have certain basic rights’.

Others present argued that very few studies had been done on the long-term effects of punctures and that they would resist paying possible fines.

On Wednesday, the government announced that it was setting up ‘security zones’ around health facilities and vaccination centers so that the police can turn away anyone who ’causes difficulty’, including protesters.

To encourage those who may still doubt, the Government launches a draw for all those vaccinated with voucher prizes of 500 euros to use in shops, hotels, restaurants and cultural and sports spaces.

Austria has to date seen almost 14,000 Covid-related deaths and 1.5 million cases in a population of around nine million.

The daily number of infections continues to break records, reaching a new high of over 27,600 on Wednesday.

Mandatory Covid vaccinations remain rare worldwide, although Ecuador, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Indonesia and Micronesia have introduced such schemes.


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