Welcome to the new normal.
In a move to protect society, the parliament of France approved a new law requiring everyone in the country to carry special virus passes to visit a restaurant, in addition to all domestic travel, according to an initial report from NPR.
And vaccinations are now mandatory for all health workers. But this raises the question: What types of bio-surveillance are in store in the coming months and years?
The new COVID-19 health pass law lasts until Nov. 15
Both of the new norms were answered with protests amid rising political tensions while French President Emmanuel Macron and his administration say the new measures are necessary to shield vulnerable populations and hospitals amid a rebound in infection rates. And, of course, to avoid another round of lockdowns in the country. The new law compels every health care worker to begin their vaccination implementation by Sept. 15, under threat of suspension. Most crucially, the law requires everyone to bring a "health pass" for entry rights into all restaurants, planes, trains, and some public venues.
As of writing, the law applies only to adults, but children ages 12 and older will also have to follow this law by Sept. 30. Those who need a pass must prove they've received the full tour of COVID-19 vaccinations, have recently recovered from or tested negative on the virus. Either digital or paper documents are fine, and the law left it open for future disambiguation of how France will handle vaccination documents from foreign nationals. The bill behind the law was revealed only six days ago, with lawmakers working round-the-clock, including last weekend, to forge a compromise for approval in the Senate Sunday night, and then the National Assembly after midnight, early on Monday.
The new rules are in effect until Nov. 15, after which the changing threat level of the virus will determine whether an extension of the law is necessary. But while the political reception of the law amid French nationals is mixed, this raises the question of how vaccine passes, certificates, and public COVID-19 checkpoint devices may evolve in the coming months and years. In the early days of the pandemic, companies brought urban surveillance cameras, from live CCTV video streams to face recognition algorithms, to bear on the challenge of contact tracing.
Health passes may multiply in a post-coronavirus world
And in March of this year, New York State unveiled a voluntary digital COVID-19 vaccine passport for residents. Called the Excelsior Pass, it was released to help businesses and citizens resume something approaching normalcy after a year of lockdowns and shuttered stores throughout the state, especially in New York City. New Yorkers may print out a QR code or save it in their smartphone wallet (for both iOS and Android), which can be revealed upon request. While this is voluntary, it seems France's response to curbing future waves of the COVID-19 coronavirus is more like Israel's Green Pass system, which is an app residents must use to access gyms, concerts, and other events.
The COVID-19 pandemic has and will continue to reshape the face of society. But it also highlights how technology is implemented to restart the skeletal functions of modern society, with an emphasis on economic recovery and financial operations. While the divisive subtext of requiring passes to travel freely in democratic societies is doubtlessly troubling, unless someone has another effective alternative, it seems health passes, whether digital or paper-based, are the only means available to governments and corporations in the struggle to move forward, in a post-coronavirus world.