French lawmakers approve COVID 'health pass' at second attempt

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PARIS, May 12 (Reuters) - France's National Assembly approved on Wednesday the creation of a COVID-19 "health pass" that people can use to attend sports events, festivals and theme parks with large crowds, a hotly contested government measure to help safely re-open the economy.

The health pass, which will come into effect from June 9, will provide proof that a person has either been vaccinated against the coronavirus, holds a recent negative PCR test, or is recovering from COVID-19 and therefore has natural antibodies.

The proposal was initially shot down in the lower house on Tuesday evening over fears it would impinge on civil freedoms, a rare defeat for President Emmanuel Macron's ruling party, after centrist MoDem allies rebelled.

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MoDem lawmakers accused the government of being deaf to the party's red lines.

The health pass was approved on a second vote in the early hours of Wednesday after the government shortened the transition period during which it will be able to re-impose restrictions such as a curfew without the permission of parliament once France's state of emergency is lifted on June 2.

France has begun slowly unwinding a third national lockdown despite registering nearly 20,000 new cases every day and with intensive care wards still saturated.

On May 19, restaurants, cafes and bars will be allowed to reopen for outdoor service and shops, museums and cinemas will reopen. Three weeks later, places of worship and sports stadiums will be allowed to admit up to 5,000 people and foreign tourists will be allowed to visit the country.

Macron has said the health pass, which can be digital or paper-based, will curb the spread of the virus at events with crowds of more than 1,000 people. It will not be used for every day venues such as restaurants and cinemas or for access to public transport.

The legislation now passes to the Senate.

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Reporting by Richard Lough and Elizabeth Pineau Editing by Gareth Jones

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