The French Senate approved the bill on Saturday evening but introduced changes to the government’s plan to exempt minors and remove restaurant and café terraces from places requiring the new sanitary pass. Senators also tabled an amendment to postpone the implementation of the new rules until September, instead of August. The law must now be approved by the lower house of parliament.
Before the vote in the Senate, more than 160,000 people demonstrated across France against the proposed restrictions, up from 50,000 during protests last weekend. About 35% of French citizens support such protests according to a new poll.
This is significantly less than the early support for other recent anti-government protest movements, such as the so-called Yellow Jackets which rose up against rising fuel prices in 2018. Many Yellow Jackets have joined the demonstrations against the health pass.
Protesters have denounced what they call a “health dictatorship” and claim that health passes violate individual freedom.
The French government is monitoring the protest movement closely, fearing a new social crisis over the summer and fall as the protests have managed to draw large crowds despite the summer recess. After last week’s protests, the government made several concessions, including reducing fines for non-compliance, pushing back deadlines and changing rules for shopping malls.
Several other European countries are moving forward with vaccine passes in an effort to contain the resurgent pandemic while allowing citizens to resume normal social life.
In Germany, this issue is politically controversial. Chancellor Angela Merkel ruled out a French-style approach last week, but her chancellery chief of staff Helge Braun said on Sunday that such measures could occur if new cases continue to rise. “Those who have been vaccinated will certainly have more freedom than those who have not,” he told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
“If the incidence of infection is high despite the test concepts, unvaccinated people should reduce their contacts,” Braun explained. “It may also mean that some offers such as restaurants, movies and stadium tours would no longer be possible, even for those tested unvaccinated, because the residual risk is too high. “
However, Braun was contradicted by Armin Laschet, Merkel’s successor at the head of the Christian Democrats and candidate for chancellor in the September elections. ” This [current] principle is good, ”Laschet told public broadcaster ZDF in an interview. “In a free state, the rights to liberty do not exist only for certain groups. Opposition parties also criticized Braun’s comments.
Italy also decided on Thursday to adopt a “green pass” proof of vaccination system for access to certain leisure activities and restaurants. Other European countries also saw demonstrations on Saturday against such plans.
French President Emmanuel Macron hit back at protesters and insisted the vaccine remains the most effective form of protection against the pandemic.
“What is your freedom worth if you say you don’t want to be vaccinated, but if tomorrow you infect your father, your mother or myself?” I am a victim of your freedom. When you had the possibility to protect yourself and protect me ”, Macron told reporters during a visit to a hospital on the island of Tahiti. “It’s not freedom, it’s irresponsibility and selfishness. ”
Macron is traveling to French Polynesia, in part, to highlight government support for the Pacific archipelago’s difficulties in containing the pandemic.
In Paris, where 11,000 people demonstrated on Saturday – less than last weekend – the demonstration turned violent when some demonstrators clashed with the police. Nine people were arrested according to to the Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin. In Marseille, demonstrators attacked a television crew covering the march.
“Everyone is free to express themselves calmly and with respect for others, except that this virus is not overcome by protests. As far as I understand how it works, I don’t think it’s very effective to protest against it, ”Macron said.