PARIS, July 14 (Reuters) – Parisian police clash with protesters denouncing President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to require a COVID-19 vaccine certificate or negative PCR test to enter bars, restaurants and cinemas in starting next month.
Macron this week announced sweeping measures to tackle a rapid rise in new coronavirus infections, including mandatory vaccination of health workers and new health card rules for the general public.
In doing so, it went further than most other European countries, as the highly contagious Delta variant sparks a new wave of cases, and other governments are closely monitoring the reaction of the French public.
Police repeatedly fired tear gas as pockets of protesters knocked over trash cans and set a mechanical shovel on fire. Some demonstrators away from the skirmishes wore badges saying “No to the sanitary pass”.
Some critics of Macron’s plan – which will force malls, cafes, bars and restaurants to check all customers’ health cards from August – accuse the president of trampling on freedoms and discriminating against those who don’t want the COVID shot.
“It is totally arbitrary and totally anti-democratic,” said a protester who identified himself as Jean-Louis.
Macron says the vaccine is the best way to get France back on the path to normalcy and that he encourages as many people as possible to get vaccinated.
There were demonstrations in other cities including Nantes, Marseille and Montpellier.
The spectacle of discontent took place on Bastille Day, the anniversary of the storming in 1789 of a medieval fortress in Paris which marked the turning point of the French Revolution.
Other proposals in the government‘s bill include mandatory 10-day isolation of anyone who tests positive, with police carrying out random checks, French media reported. The prime minister’s office did not respond when asked to confirm details.
Reporting by Christian Lowe and Gonzalo Fuentes; Written by Richard Lough; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Sandra Maler
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