© Reuters. Protesters walk in front of the Pyramide du Louvre during a protest against new measures announced by French President Emmanuel Macron to combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Paris, France, on July 17, 2021. REUTERS / Pascal Rossignol
PARIS (Reuters) – More than 100,000 people marched through France on Saturday to protest President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to force vaccination of healthcare workers and demand a COVID-19-free certificate to enter places like restaurants and cinemas.
Macron announced radical measures this week to combat a rapid rise in coronavirus infections, which protesters say violate the freedom of choice of those who do not want the vaccine.
The Interior Ministry said 137 marches were held across the country, bringing together nearly 114,000 people, of which 18,000 were in Paris.
The measures had already sparked smaller demonstrations earlier this week, forcing police to use tear gas to disperse protesters.
“Everyone is sovereign in his own body. In no way does a President of the Republic have the right to decide about my individual health,” said a protester in Paris who identified himself as Chrystelle.
The marches also included “yellow vest” protesters seeking to revive the anti-government movement held back by coronavirus lockdowns.
Visiting a center in Anglet, southwestern France, Prime Minister Jean Castex said that vaccination, which is not mandatory for the general public for now, is the only way to fight the virus.
“I listen to the reluctance that arises but I believe that all our fellow citizens must be convinced at all costs to get 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 mandatory vaccination for healthcare workers, as well as the requirement of a pass. health in some public places.
Rapidly spreading variants of the virus risk undermining economic recovery if allowed to spiral out of control, forcing some governments to rethink their COVID-19 strategies just as citizens begin their summer vacation.
Earlier on Saturday, Castex’s office said France would tighten restrictions on unvaccinated travelers from a number of countries to counter a spike in COVID-19 infections, while also opening its doors to those who have received all their vaccines.
“The Delta variant is here, we must not hide the truth, it is more contagious than the previous ones. We must adapt and face it,” Castex told reporters in southwestern France, referring to the variant first identified in India.
After falling from more than 42,000 a day in mid-April to less than 2,000 a day in late June, the average number of new infections in France has rebounded to almost 11,000 a day.
55.5% of the French had a single dose of a vaccine as of Saturday and 44.8% were fully inoculated.
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