By Shweta Desai
PARIS (AA) - France will make a third coronavirus shot mandatory for caregivers and firefighters beginning Jan. 30, the health minister said Saturday.
Olivier Veran said the government wants to strengthen its vaccination program by making a booster compulsory for certain public service providers.
The move is likely to stir a new wave of protests by anti-vaxxers who had previously opposed a health bill mandating vaccination for health care professionals and a digital health pass providing proof of being virus-free to enter public places.
Veran defended the measure for an obligatory vaccine in the face of the highly contagious omicron variant which he said can multiply up to 70 times more in the cells after infection.
He said the Health Ministry would want to avoid a situation like in Scotland, where caregivers have become infected with the omicron variant.
“The Paris region already has several hospital clusters of the omicron variant and we do not want the situation as in Scotland where 25 to 30% of caregivers could not work because they had to be quarantined after coming in contact with infected patients,” he told France Inter news.
The government approved a law in July requiring compulsory vaccination against the coronavirus for health personnel, with penalties for non-compliance including suspension from duty or non-payment of salary.
The measure was widely contested with thousands of anti-vaxxers talking to the streets to oppose its implementation.
Veran did not specify if those penalties would be imposed in case of non-compliance with the booster.
From Jan. 15, the third shot will also be mandatory for all adults if they wish to enter public venues like restaurants, cafes, cinemas and museums.
The health pass -- a digital proof of vaccination or negative RT-PCR test result for entry in public and social places -- will be invalid in the absence of the third shot.
Meanwhile, the Scientific Council, which advises the government on issues related to science and health, urged authorities to introduce “significant restrictive measures" for New Year's Eve to contain the rapid spread of the virus.
Experts have predicted the probability of s sixth wave in January.
France has recorded 58,536 new cases in the last 24 hours, according to the latest health data.