People in France who refuse to get a coronavirus test or vaccine could be restricted from using public transportation, according to a proposed bill backed by Prime Minister Jean Castex's cabinet.
The newly introduced bill, which will be submitted for review in Parliament, is designed to provide the French government with a legal framework for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and future public health crises.
According to its text, a negative COVID test or proof of a "preventative treatment, including the administration of a vaccine" could be required for people to be granted "access to transport or to some locations, as well as certain activities," Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
President Emmanuel Macron said in November that coronavirus vaccinations will not be mandatory throughout France, but the new bill has sparked outrage from opposing political leaders who believe the language is too severe.
Marine Le Pen, leader of France's far-right RN party called the law "essentially totalitarian," and said that "in a backhanded way, this bill does not aim to make vaccinations mandatory, but will prevent anybody who doesn't comply from having a social life," according to AFP.
Sebastien Chenu, an RN party spokesperson, said the French government was planning "a health dictatorship," while Centrist Senator Nathalie Goulet called the bill "an attack on public freedoms."
Others said the bill gives the government sweeping powers to create a system of "vaccine blackmail."
"How incompetent can [the government] be when it presents on the sly ... three days before Christmas, a bill with restrictive sanitary measures that would give it powers of vaccine blackmail?" asked conservative MP Fabien Di Filippo on Twitter, as translated by Politico.
Responding to the criticisms, Public Sector Minister Amelie de Montchalin said the bill was "not at all made to create exceptional powers for the government" or "create a health state," AFP reported.
France will begin its coronavirus vaccination program by inoculating vulnerable members of the public as early as next Sunday, Reuters reported. But like many other countries, French citizens are skeptical of receiving the COVID-19 jab.
According to an Ipsos poll for the World Economic Forum, only 59 percent of French respondents said they would get a COVID-19 vaccine if it became available, compared with 67 percent in the United States and 85 percent in Britain.
Macron previously stated that the government will aim to get as many people vaccinated as possible through "a strategy to convince and based on transparency," Reuters reported.
France has the fifth-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world. As of Friday, the country has reported over 2.5 million cases and 61,019 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.