The bill’s headline measure is aimed at getting France’s remaining five million unvaccinated people over 12 to accept a shot.
At present a health pass is required to access numerous everyday venues including bars, cafés, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, gyms, leisure centres and long distance train travel – but a recent negative test is accepted for the health pass.
The bill aims to replace the health pass with a vaccine pass – which would only allow people who are fully vaccinated to gain access to those venues.
The debate began in the Assemblée nationale on Monday, but later on Monday a majority of MPs refused to continue to debate by a show of hands, leading to the suspension of the motion.
The debate was scheduled to continue until the early hours, but MPs said they simply did not have enough time to examine all aspects of the bill.
the debate will restart on Tuesday evening, but this could mean that the government’s desired introduction date for the vaccine pass of January 15th will have to be put back.
The Omicron variant of coronavirus has stoked average daily confirmed cases to more than 160,000 per day over the past week, with peaks above 200,000.
“The tidal wave has indeed arrived, it’s enormous, but we will not give in to panic,” Health Minister Olivier Véran told parliament.
Reacting to critics who say the law infringes on people’s civil liberties, Véran added that “selfishness often hides behind talk of supposed liberty”.
Although there is fierce opposition to the bill in parts of the left and far-right, the support of President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party and most opposition conservatives and socialists should see it through the lower house.
It is expected to come into force on January 15th after passing through the upper house Senate.
As well as the headline shift to granting access to many aspects of public life based on vaccines, the bill would also mean heavier penalties for those sharing or forging their vaccine passes, and for venues failing to check up on them.
People holding or making a fake pass could face a sentence as high as five years in prison and a fine of €75,000.
France has also tweaked rules for how schools should react to infected pupils, allowing them to return sooner if more frequent follow-up tests prove negative after just five days.
Later Monday, Prime Minister Jean Castex was expected to meet with ministers to discuss the impact on crucial services like hospitals, transport, policing and energy from large numbers of people calling in sick.
And after meeting representatives from employers’ organisations, and the tourism, hotel and restaurant industries, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the government would extend access to aid for businesses suffering under anti-Covid measures.