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POLITICS

France sets new daily Covid case record with over 270,000 infections

France set a new record on Tuesday for the number of daily Covid infections as lawmakers debated the planned new vaccine pass.

French Health Minister Olivier Veran addresses the French National Assembly.
French Health Minister Olivier Veran addresses the French National Assembly. France may be about to break another Covid record. (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

French Health Minister Olivier Véran had already warned that the country was about to break another Covid-19 case record on Tuesday by suggesting the country could report nearly 300,000 new infections within a 24-hour period.

In the end some 271, 686 cases were reported by health authorities. 

France broke its record for the most number of new Covid cases recorded in 24 hours last week, registering 232,200 infections on Friday. This figure was mostly driven by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant but also by increased testing in the run up to New Year’s Eve. 

Veran also reported that 64 children were in hospital in France with severe forms of Covid-19 – the highest number since the star of the pandemic.

The centrist party of French President Emmanuel Macron had been left red-faced after opposition parties joined forces to hold up a bill tightening measures against Covid-19.

Prime Minister Jean Castex condemned opposition MPs, telling them: “the virus is galloping and you are pulling the hand break”. 

The National Assembly was debating the implementation of a vaccine pass that will require a full course of vaccination to attend events, eat out or travel by inter-city train, rather than a recent negative test or proof of recovery.

READ MORE What will change when France’s health pass becomes a vaccine pass?

But when the government asked the chamber late Monday to continue debating the legislation after midnight, to ensure it could be adopted by the end of the week, the right-wing Republicans (LR) teamed up with the far-right and far-left to stop the debate.

In an embarrassment for Macron’s Republic on the Move (LREM) party that controls parliament, not enough of its lawmakers were still present in the chamber when the vote by a show of hands was taken on continuing the debate.

French media said the surprise move by the LR — which has backed the main thrust of the legislation — pointed to rising political tensions ahead of April 2022 presidential elections, which Macron appears the favourite, but is not certain, to win.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal lashed out at a “procedural coup” by opposition lawmakers, saying they wanted to “derail the calendar” for the vaccine pass for purely political reasons.

“We will do everything to stick to the calendar as has been set out,” he told France Inter radio. The government wants the new legislation to be implemented from January 15.

The debate was due to resume late Tuesday, parliamentary sources said, with 500 amendments filed by the opposition to be discussed and lawmakers facing another late night.

Member comments

  1. Wow, 300,000 that’s shocking! I’ve been indoors with a broken knee for the last two months but when I went to the Casino supermarket yesterday in the south of France I couldn’t believe how many people weren’t wearing masks or weren’t wearing them properly. It made me kind of angry!!! lol

    1. In the UK, after going though all the hoops to get in, the signs outside Sainsburys etc., INVITE you to wear one if you feel like it.

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POLITICS

‘Public opinion is ready’ – These French senators want to legalise marijuana

A group of 31 French senators of the Socialist, Green and Republican parties have come together to write a statement calling for the legalisation of marijuana in France.

'Public opinion is ready' - These French senators want to legalise marijuana

France is known for having some of the strictest laws regarding marijuana consumption in Europe – while simultaneously maintaining one of the highest rates of cannabis usage in the EU. 

A group of French senators – coming from the Socialist, Green and centre-right Les Républicains parties – are trying to change those laws, and have come together to call for marijuana to be legalised in France.

The group of 31 co-signed a statement published in French newspaper, Le Monde, on Wednesday, August 10th.

In the statement, the senators promised to launch a ‘consultation process’ to submit a bill to legalise marijuana “in the coming months.”

The proposition was headed by Senator Gilbert-Luc Devinaz, a member of the Socialist Party, and gained support from the party’s leader, Patrick Kanner.

READ MORE: The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

A report by the Assemblé Nationale, which was published in May 2021, estimated that nearly 18 million French people (more than 25 percent of the population) had already consumed marijuana, and that an additional 1.5 million consume it regularly.

This, coupled with the 2019 finding that nearly one in two French people (45 percent) said they were in favour of legalisation, according to a survey by the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), helped strengthen the senators’ position.

“Public opinion is ready, the legislature must act,” they wrote.

Their senators argue that legalising marijuana in France will allow the authorities to better protect French citizens, saying that legalising would not require “minimising the health impacts of cannabis consumption” but rather would allow regulation similar to “public policies for tobacco, alcohol or gambling.”

For the group of 31 senators, the benefits of legalisation would involve a better control over the “health quality of products consumed,” “curbing trafficking in disadvantaged areas,” developing large-scale prevention plans,” and finally the taxation of cannabis products and redirection of law enforcement resources. Decriminalisation – in their opinion – would not be sufficient as this would simply “deprive authorities the ability to act,” in contrast to legalisation. 

READ MORE: Is France moving towards legalising cannabis for recreational purposes?

“In the long term, new tax revenues would be generated from the cannabis trade and from savings in the justice and police sectors”, which would make it possible to mobilize “significant resources for prevention as well as for rehabilitation and economic development,” wrote the senators.

In France, the conversation around cannabis has evolved in recent years – former Health Minister (and current government spokesman) Olivier Véran said to France Bleu in September 2021 that “countries that have gone towards legalisation have results better than those of France in the last ten years,” adding that he was interested in the potential therapeutic use of cannabis.

Currently, the drug is illegal in France. Previously, it fell under a 1970-law of illicit drug use, making it punishable with up to a year prison and an up to €3,750 fine.

However, in 2020, the government softened the penalties, making it possible for those caught consuming it to opt for an on-the-spot fine of €200.

There is also an ongoing trial involving 3,000 patients to test the impacts of medical marijuana usage, particularly with regard to pain relief. 

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