PARIS, Aug 14 (Reuters) – Protesters marched in cities across France for the fifth straight weekend for the largest demonstration yet against rules forcing them to show a COVID-19 health card for daily activities.
They gathered through the streets of Paris, Marseille, Nice, Montpellier and other cities, waving posters saying “Passport = Apartheid” and chanting “Freedom, Freedom”.
Since last Monday, citizens have had to show their passports in public places to prove that they are vaccinated or have recently tested negative for the coronavirus.
After a week of forbearance from the police, the government has vowed to tighten its health passport checks. And tests, unless prescribed by a doctor, will no longer be free from October.
The number of protesters more than doubled between the first and fourth Saturday of the protest, from 114,000 on July 17 to 237,000 on August 7.
Authorities estimate that the more than 200 rallies in the country will include around 250,000 protesters.
The protests have brought together a diverse group against President Emmanuel Macron’s legislation designed to help contain a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections in France and ensure the country’s economic recovery.
The number of people treated in intensive care units for COVID-19 has more than doubled in less than a month, reaching 1,831 as of Friday, a number more than three times lower than the third lockdown peak of 6,001, but high enough to trigger new restrictive measures in certain areas. Continue reading
Health Department data showed that nine out of ten COVID patients recently admitted to intensive care had not been vaccinated. Surveys show that a majority of French people support the health passport.
Among the protesters are remnants of the anti-government “yellow vests” movement that rocked Macron’s leadership in 2018-2019, as well as other citizens who are against vaccinations or see the health passport as discriminatory.
Vaccination rates rose after Macron unveiled its plans for the health card last month. Almost 70% of all French people have now received a dose and 57.5% are fully vaccinated.
Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten and Michaela Cabrera; Editing by Christina Fincher
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