In a lively atmosphere, the National Assembly gave the green light to the extension of the state of health emergency until June 1 in the face of the Covid-19 epidemic, despite the opposition from the left like from the right.
The bill to extend the state of health emergency until June 1 was adopted by 113 votes in favor, those of the majority alone, on the evening of January 20.
The text will be on the menu of the Senate at first reading on January 27, with a view to final adoption before February 16, the current date of end of application of this exceptional regime.
The state of health emergency is the legislative basis which authorizes the national curfew at 6 p.m. It also allows measures to restrict or prohibit movement, gatherings or the opening of establishments, on all or part of the territory, as well as, if necessary, partial or complete confinements of the population.
“I understand the weariness and the desire to get out of the crisis, but we cannot deprive ourselves of any tool to fight the virus”, hammered Olivier Véran, while parliamentarians relayed the concerns of restaurateurs, students and more Ski stations.
“We are on a wire,” said the Minister of Health, at a time when the British and South African variants of Covid-19 are spreading.
A state of emergency, a “toolbox of full powers”?
The oppositions spoke out against a “trivialization” of the state of emergency (The Republicans and the Communist Party), “toolbox of full powers” (La France insoumise) which could last until the presidential election, according to these elected.
“We are no longer in a democracy”, affirmed Paul Molac of the Libertés et Territoires group, like Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (Debout La France) who believes that the government “is unraveling confidence”.
The Socialists had defended in vain a motion of preliminary rejection, deploring “the absence of balance sheet” accompanying this extension.
The tone rose several times on both sides, Ian Boucard (LR) evoking a “blackmail to responsibility” on the part of Olivier Véran. “You will remain the minister of the fiasco on tests, masks, vaccines,” added his colleague from the same group Julien Aubert.
Olivier Véran in return pinpointed a “permanent excess” of oppositions which “is starting to tire the French a little”: “Help us, roll up your sleeves”, he asked them.
But even within the majority, deputies set their conditions. Philippe Latombe (Modem) thus demanded “transparency in the answers and the figures”, when the leader of the deputies Agir Olivier Becht estimated that it was “not possible to give a blank check without discussing the substance of government »strategy. And to warn: “We will not be able to go through 2021 by confining, deconfining, reconfining.”
Established during the Covid-19 crisis, the state of health emergency was applied from March 23 to July 10, 2020, and again since October 17.
The question of departmental and regional elections will arise
MEPs from various sides unsuccessfully defended amendments for a shorter extension, increased parliamentary scrutiny or more transparency of the Scientific Council.
In committee, the deputies had removed the transitional period of exit from the state of emergency envisaged after June 1, which will require a new meeting before Parliament. The question of holding regional and departmental elections in June will then arise.
In addition, the bill postpones to December 31 the very lapsing of the legal framework of the state of emergency.
In December, a bill for a “long-term health emergency management regime” to take over from the current regime was put away immediately after its presentation to the Council of Ministers in the face of the outcry.
In question, an article providing in the event of a future pandemic the possibility of seeing certain trips conditional on vaccination, which had aroused an outcry from opposition. Some saw it as the implementation of a “health passport”.
“[Ce projet de loi] was finally withdrawn from the agenda and will be examined in Parliament when the crisis is behind us, ”Olivier Véran pledged.