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Protests in France over health passport – but 3 million vaccine appointments booked since Macron’s announcement

Several protests took place around France on Wednesday over plans to make vaccinations compulsory for healthworkers and expand the health passport scheme to include entry to venues including cafés, bars and shopping centres.

Protests in France over health passport - but 3 million vaccine appointments booked since Macron's announcement
A protestor in Paris. Photo: Geoffroy van der Hasselt/AFP

Around 19,000 people took part in 53 different protests around France – but in the three days since president Emmanuel Macron’s announcement of the new measures 3.2 million people have booked vaccine appointments.

Some of the protests began on Wednesday morning in Paris as the annual military parade for the traditional Bastille Day parade was taking place along the famous Champs-Elysées and police fired tear gas to disperse some protesters.

The demonstrators were unhappy at the decision announced on Monday to oblige health workers to get vaccinated and bring in a vaccine health pass for most public places.

Unvaccinated people would require, for example, a negative test result or proof of recent recovery from Covid in order to enter restaurants.

READ ALSO How France’s expanded health passport will work 

Demonstrators in Paris. Photo by GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP

“This is in the name of freedom” was the message from some of the protesters.

In one area of the French capital police fired teargas to disperse the crowd.

The declared protest route had not been respected, Paris police said in a tweet, deploring the “throwing of projectiles” and lighting of fires by the protesters.

Throughout Paris some 2,250 people protested, while other demonstrations took place in Toulouse, Bordeaux, Montpelier, Nantes and elsewhere. The French authorities put the total number of protesters at 19,000.

Photo by GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP

The interior ministry said that there were altogether 53 different protests throughout France.

“Down with dictatorship”, “down with the health pass” protesters chanted.

One of them, Yann Fontaine, a 29-year-old notary’s clerk from the Berry region in central France, said he had come to demonstrate in Paris arguing that the imposition of a health pass equalled “segregation”.

“Macron plays on fears, it’s revolting. I know people who will now get vaccinated just so that they can take their children to the movies, not to protect others from serious forms of Covid,” he said.

The French government on Tuesday defended its decision to impose Covid tests for unvaccinated people who want to eat in restaurants or take long-distance trips, as the country looks to avoid a surge in more contagious Delta cases.

“There isn’t any vaccine obligation, this is maximum inducement,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal said.

“I have a hard time understanding, in a country where 11 vaccines are already mandatory… that this could be seen as a dictatorship,” he said, adding that after a year of studying the vaccines “the time of doubting is long past”.

Since Macron’s announcement on Monday evening, 3.2 million people have booked vaccine appointments on online booking platforms, including 430,000 on Wednesday, which was a public holiday.

OPINION: Macron is now coercing the French into getting vaccinated – and it seems that they like it

The rules will be relaxed for teenagers who have only been able to get the jabs since mid-June. “Making summer hell is out of the question,” Attal said.

According to an Elabe opinion poll published Tuesday, the new safety measures have a large majority of approval amongst French people.

Around 35.5 million people – just over half of France’s population – have received at least one vaccine dose so far.

At the start of the pandemic, France had some of the highest levels of vaccine scepticism in the developed world.

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POLITICS

Mayor of southern French town bans smoking in cars

The mayor of a town in southern France has banned smoking in cars in an attempt to limit forest fires - many of which are caused by carelessly discarded cigarette butts.

Mayor of southern French town bans smoking in cars

With France facing a hot, dry summer, some areas have already been hit by wildfires, while many others in the south of the country are on a high alert.

One of the major causes of the devastating fires is carelessly discarded cigarette butts, so the mayor of the commune of Langlade in the Gard département in south east France, has enacted a special decree banning smoking.

Smoking will be banned in a number of outdoor spaces that do not have facilities, including the town’s soccer stadium, shooting range, archery range, tennis courts – and also bans drivers from smoking in their cars. The decree is in force through the whole of the commune of Langlade.

The decree runs until July 31st and offenders risk a €15 fine – although local authorities told the Gazette de Nîmes that their main priority is raising awareness of the risk of fire from smoking, rather than handing out fines.

The Gard département has already been hit by a wildfire that destroyed several hundred acres, and firefighters have warned that the south of the country is ‘like a tinderbox’ because of the unusually early heatwave and drought that has left land parched.

READ ALSO What to do if you see a wildfire

In France smoking is banned in enclosed public spaces, but is legal in outdoor spaces such as open-air sports grounds and on the outdoor terraces of bars and cafés.

Smoking in a private vehicle is legal, as long as there are no young children in the car. Smoking while driving is not explicitly banned, but drivers can be fined if they are not in proper control of the vehicle.

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