PARIS, July 17 (Reuters) – More than a hundred thousand people marched across France on Saturday to protest President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to force the vaccination of health workers and demand a certificate of absence from COVID-19 to enter places like restaurants and cinemas.
Macron this week announced sweeping measures to tackle a rapid rise in coronavirus infections, which protesters say undermines the freedom of choice of those who do not want the vaccination. Read more
The Interior Ministry said 137 marches took place across the country, bringing together nearly 114,000 people, including 18,000 in Paris.
The measures had already sparked smaller protests earlier this week, forcing police to use tear gas to disperse protesters. Read more
“Each one is sovereign in his body. In no case does a President of the Republic have the right to decide on my individual health, ”declared a demonstrator in Paris who identified herself as Chrystelle.
The marches also included “yellow vests” protesters seeking to revive the anti-government movement held back by coronavirus lockdowns.
Visiting a center in Anglet, in southwest France, Prime Minister Jean Castex said vaccination, which is not compulsory for the general public at the moment, is the only way to fight the virus.
“I hear the reluctance that arises but I think we must at all costs convince all our fellow citizens to be vaccinated, it is the best way to face this health crisis,” said Castex.
Despite the strength of the protests, an Ipsos-Sopra Steria poll released on Friday found that more than 60% of French people agree with compulsory vaccination for health workers, as well as the requirement for a health pass in some public places.
The rapidly spreading variants of the virus risk undermining economic recovery if they get out of hand, forcing some governments to rethink their COVID-19 strategies just as citizens begin their summer vacation.
Earlier on Saturday, the Castex office said France would tighten restrictions on unvaccinated travelers from a range of countries to counter a rebound in COVID-19 infections, while opening its doors to those who have received all their vaccines. Read more
“The Delta variant is here, we must not hide the truth, it is more contagious than the previous ones. You have to adapt and deal with it, ”Castex told reporters in southwest France, referring to the variant first identified in India.
After dropping from more than 42,000 per day in mid-April to less than 2,000 per day at the end of June, the average number of new infections in France has rebounded to reach nearly 11,000 per day. Read more
Some 55.5% of French people had received a single dose of a vaccine on Saturday and 44.8% were fully vaccinated.
Report by Antone Paone, Sybille de La Hamaide and Gwenaelle Barzic, edited by David Holmes and Louise Heavens
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