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PARIS: France hopes that a planned new vaccine pass that will be required to enter public places will persuade more people to get inoculated against COVID-19 as the country faces a rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the health minister said on Saturday.

The government does not want to impose new curfews or lockdowns on people who have been vaccinated, but the threat of Omicron means authorities have to increase pressure on those refusing vaccination, Olivier Veran said on France Inter radio.

"We cannot continue to say that the choice of not getting vaccinated is a choice that has no consequences," Veran said.

Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Friday the government will propose a bill in parliament in January to change France's "health pass" into a "vaccine pass", meaning only vaccinated people will be allowed to enter indoor public places such as bars, restaurants and cinemas.

Under current regulations, a recent negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination suffices.

About 90% of eligible French people have been vaccinated, according to the government.

Veran said the government would ask MPs to also consider making the vaccine pass a requirement on trains and planes, and to make it mandatory to show a proof of identity along with the pass. "There is too much fraud," he said.

Up to 10% of new French COVID-19 cases suspected to be Omicron variant

Far-right Rassemblement National party leader Marine Le Pen said the proposed vaccine pass was akin to mandatory vaccination. "French people are losing individual freedoms," she said on BFM.

Veran said that Omicron was currently suspected to account for up to 10% of new coronavirus cases and that could rise to more than 50% early next year.

Following a nationwide ban on New Year's Eve fireworks announced on Friday, Paris city hall announced it had cancelled fireworks and festivities on the Champs-Elysées planned for Dec. 31.

In a report released on Saturday, the scientific committee advising the government on COVID-19 recommended "significant restrictive measures" for Dec. 31, including possible curfews.

Veran said he expected that next week France's health authority will approve vaccination for children aged 5 to 11.

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