Police fire tear gas after being pelted with objects at healthcare demo

French police fired tear gas after being pelted with objects during a Paris demonstration on Tuesday led by healthcare workers demanding more investment in the health system, AFP journalists reported.

Police fire tear gas after being pelted with objects at healthcare demo
Black-clad 'casseurs' turned up at the healthcare demo in Paris. Photo: AFP

Doctors, nurses and administrative staff marched without incident in the capital and other French cities to demand the government keep its promise to overhaul France's hospital system in response to the coronavirus crisis.

But when demonstrators arrived in front of the Les Invalides complex in central Paris, a small group of people clad in black set fire to a vehicle and pelted the police with projectiles, chanting “everybody hates the police.”

In response police fired tear gas and charged, in tense and chaotic scenes.

“Violent groups are trying to escalate tensions at the peaceful demonstration held by healthcare workers,” police headquarters in Paris tweeted.

Street furniture and a car was set alight. Photo: AFP

By 2pm, 16 people had been arrested.

Healthcare workers have long complained about low salaries and insufficient staff at French hospitals, leading to a series of strikes over the past year to demand funding increases.

The French healthcare system has been under severe pressure due to the coronavirus epidemic, although officials insist it has largely withstood the challenge.

But many healthcare workers have insisted that the nightly rounds of applause for caregivers treating COVID-19 patients would ring hollow if the government did not back up the public recognition of their work with additional resources.

Police fired tear gas as trouble flared. Photo: AFP

“We were portrayed as superheroes because we worked overtime and protected our patients without enough equipment. We were promised hirings and funding but we haven't seen any of it,” said a nurse, Latifa, who works at a hospital in southern city Grenoble.

The 50-year-old earns €1,565 a month.

“Every day I had a knot in my stomach from the fear of bringing the virus home,” said home carer Amelie Membanda, who has a three-year-old boy and also works in Grenoble.

“We were there for our patients, even without masks, gloves or other protective gear. For the elderly who no longer had any visitors or had no family, we were everything,” Membanda said, who earns around €1,100 a month.

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Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

A Frenchwoman and a Spaniard were killed and nine other mountaineers were injured on Friday in an ice fall in southwest Switzerland, police said following a rescue attempt involving several helicopters.

Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

Police received calls at 6.20 am reporting that mountaineers had been caught up in falling seracs — columns of glacial ice formed by crevasses — on the Grand Combin, a glacial massif near the Italian border in the Wallis region.

Seven helicopters with mountain rescue experts flew to the scene, finding 17 mountaineers split among several groups.

“Two people died at the scene of the accident,” Wallis police said in a statement. They were a 40-year-old Frenchwoman and a 65-year-old man from Spain.

Nine mountaineers were airlifted to hospitals in nearby Sion and in Lausanne. Two of them are seriously injured, police said.

Other mountaineers were evacuated by helicopter.

The regional public prosecutor has opened an investigation “to determine the circumstances of this event”, the police said.

The serac fall happened at an altitude of 3,400 metres in the Plateau de Dejeuner section along the Voie du Gardien ascent route.

The Grand Combin massif has three summits above 4,000 metres, the highest of which is the Combin de Grafeneire at 4,314 metres.

The police issued a note of caution about setting off on such high-altitude expeditions.

“When the zero-degree-Celsius isotherm is around 4,000 metres above sea level, it is better to be extra careful or not attempt the route if in doubt,” Wallis police said.

“The golden rule is to find out beforehand from the mountain guides about the chosen route and its current feasibility.”