France: Riot police present at Paris health pass protests
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The French President dismissed demonstrators as a “magma of anti-vax, anti-sciences and anti-state”. It comes after more than 230,000 people took part in marches across France on Saturday. The events mark the fourth successive weekend of anger against Mr Macron’s measures to curb the spread of coronavirus while reopening the economy.
The number of protesters has gradually risen every weekend to the surprise of police officers, who claim that such movements usually wane in the holiday season.
David Le Bars, general secretary of the Union of National Police Superintendents, said: “In the middle of August, it’s completely unprecedented.”
He said the protests were likely to escalate in September when the holiday season ends.
The union boss predicted that it would provoke disturbances reminiscent of the yellow vest protests that erupted against Mr Macron in 2018 and 2019.
“We mustn’t be naive,” Mr Le Bars said.
“There will be difficult demonstrations. We consider that September will be a bit difficult.”
With 3,000 officers on duty in Paris, where about 17,000 people joined Saturday’s protest, there was less violence than on previous weekends.
But in small, provincial cities, such as Nantes and Dijon, protesters clashed with the police.
Under Mr Macron’s plans, proof of full vaccination or a negative coronavirus test will be required to gain access to bars, cafes, clubs, trains and coaches.
It will also be demanded for those who want to be admitted to hospital for non-urgent treatment and for visitors.
Museums, cinemas, libraries, zoos and riverboats are also on a 19-strong list of “places of activity and leisure” that are included in the passport scheme.
Mr Macron’s allies say that the system is needed to overcome a strong anti-vax culture in France.
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They also claim the announcement has helped boost Covid vaccination rates, which got off to a sluggish start but is delivering some 300,000 jabs a day.
French health minister Olivier Veran said: “I am convinced that France will soon be one of the most vaccinated countries in the world.”
Similar protests have been witnessed in Italy, with thousands furious over the introduction of a so-called “green pass” across the country last week.
Rome’s scheme will require people to have received at least one jab, recovered from coronavirus or recently had a negative test.
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It will be used to open up indoor dining, cinemas, theatres and museums.
Up to 5,000 people took part in an unauthorised protest against the system, chanting “no green pass” and “freedom, freedom”.
In Rome, about 1,500 demonstrators gathered in the central Pizza del Popolo, in Turin some 1,000 marched through the city centre, and smaller protests were held in Naples and Florence.
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