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The Senate gives the green light to the health bill, with possible control of travelers

The health bill, which ratifies the expiry on August 1 of the exceptional regimes put in place to fight against Covid-19, was adopted by the Senate overnight. It restores the possibility of resorting to health checks on travellers. Deputies and senators will try to agree on a common version on Thursday.

The Senate dominated by the right adopted, on the night of Wednesday July 20 to Thursday July 21, in first reading the health bill. It restores a possibility of recourse to a health control of travelers, which the National Assembly had removed.

The text, which ratifies the expiry on 1er August of the exceptional regimes put in place to fight against the Covid-19 epidemic, was voted by 189 votes against 33. The socialist groups (PS), ecologist, European Democratic and Social Rally (RDSE) with a radical majority and Independents abstained. The Republican Communist Citizen and Ecologist (CRCE) group, with a communist majority, voted against. Fourteen (out of 145) Republican (LR) senators also voted against, and thirteen abstained.

Deputies and senators will try, from Thursday, to agree on a common version in a joint committee (CMP). If agreed, it will still have to be voted on one last time by both chambers.

“We will go to the CMP tomorrow with a united position,” said the senator of the Rally of Democrats, Progressives and Independents (RDPI, formerly La République en Marche), Alain Richard. If unsuccessful, the shuttle will continue.

Two separate devices

In the National Assembly, the “health monitoring and security” bill had been amputated from its key article, by a combination of votes from the National Rally (RN), LR and a majority of the alliance from left Nupes. A first legislative setback for the presidential majority, which placed the Senate in a position of strength.

In front of the senators, the Minister of Health, François Braun, declared himself “ready” to build a “compromise without compromise”.

Noting “a new political and parliamentary deal”, the president of the LR group Bruno Retailleau welcomed the “affirmation of a bicameralism which will now be more balanced”.

The Senate approved the tightened device proposed by the rapporteur LR Philippe Bas, amended in session.

It comes in two separate devices. The first concerns travelers from foreign countries. In the event of the appearance of a new, particularly dangerous variant of Covid-19, the government could impose the presentation of a negative test on boarding. This for one month, a vote of Parliament being necessary beyond.

A second similar device could apply for trips to overseas communities “in the event of a risk of saturation” of their health system.

On the initiative of Philippe Bonnecarrère (centrist) and Thani Mohamed Soilihi (RDPI), the possibility of a check was introduced for people from overseas communities.

Reintegration of unvaccinated caregivers debated

On the other hand, the Senate rejected amendments brought by several groups, including the centrists, to restore the possibility of producing, not only a negative test, but also proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19.

The Minister of Health, François Braun, was in favor of it, believing that these elements “continue to make medical sense”. The rapporteur defended a choice of efficiency.

Denouncing “an unacceptable step back”, the leader of the PS group Patrick Kanner affirmed that the motivation of the rapporteur is not “only scientific”, but also political, to meet an expectation of LR deputies.

Another subject that has been debated, the question of the reintegration of unvaccinated caregivers, while the various scientific authorities oscillate between reservations and “firm opposition” in the face of such an eventuality. According to the rapporteur’s proposal, the vaccination obligation for caregivers will be suspended as soon as the High Authority for Health judges that it is no longer justified, and non-vaccinated caregivers will then be “immediately reinstated”.

The minister, who reported 2,605 suspensions in the health sector, deemed the device “balanced”.

For Bernard Jomier (PS), “it is only a political message which is sent and which takes place within the framework of the new balances of our assemblies”. Among LR senators, Alain Milon opposed this provision, fearing that it would create “a precedent” for other vaccination obligations.

The senators have, moreover, explicitly provided in the text for the repeal of the regimes allowing the establishment of restrictions on freedoms, such as confinement, curfew or health pass. Finally, the text makes it possible to extend the tools for monitoring the SI-DEP and Contact Covid epidemic.

With AFP