France will lift its requirement for wearing masks outdoors and enforce the use of vaccine passes for accessing public places to contain the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced Thursday in a televised address. 

The vaccine pass is likely to come into effect on Monday if cleared by the Constitutional Council, Castex said. The bill, approved by parliament, is currently being examined by the judicial council for final validation.

Once the law comes into effect, anyone 16 and over will be required to show proof that they are fully vaccinated in order to enter restaurants, cafes, cinemas, sports facilities, museums and use long-distance public transport. Negative PCR or antigen test results will no longer be accepted for the unvaccinated, as under the previous health pass measure.

The vaccine pass measure will be suspended if there are fewer hospital admissions linked to COVID-19, he said.

Castex assured the French that they can breathe easily outdoors without a mask from Feb. 2 as the impact of the pandemic is relatively less serious, noting there has been a significant drop in the number of patients in intensive care units even though there is pressure on hospitals.

“This exceptional wave is not over, but the situation is starting to evolve more favorably,” he said.

Although figures for daily positive cases remain high, with 425,183 infections reported Thursday, Castex observed that the current wave is in a “clear ebb.”

In addition, minors aged 12-17 can be administered a booster shot from Jan. 24 and nightclubs will reopen from Feb. 16.

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