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Thousands demonstrate against France COVID vaccine pass | News on the coronavirus pandemic

Protesters have taken to the streets in cities across France to reject a law that would see the implementation of tougher restrictions for people not vaccinated against COVID-19, as parliament continues to debate the bill.

Thousands of people took part in protests on Saturday, with a range of disparate political groups coming together. In the capital, Paris, where the largest rally left near the Eiffel Tower, the protest was called by anti-EU presidential candidate Florian Philippot.

Other protests recalled the 2018-19 “yellow vests” movement against economic reforms planned by President Emmanuel Macron, and there were new rallies in major cities like Bordeaux, Toulouse and Lille.

People in the crowd chanted ‘no to the vaccine’ or ‘freedom for Djokovic’, seizing on the case of men’s tennis world number one Novak Djokovic, who is battling the Australian government to attend the Australian Open unvaccinated. of the Grand Slam.

“Novak is sort of our standard bearer right now,” protester Pascal told AFP news agency in Bordeaux.

He was marching alongside parents with children at a western town tennis club, where he said the coach risked losing his job for refusing vaccination.

In Paris, protesters displayed French and regional flags, with banners bearing messages such as “it’s not the virus they want to control, it’s you”.

Two protesters, Laurence and Claire, told AFP they were vaccinated “but we are against the pass for teenagers, we don’t see why they are getting vaccinated because they are not in danger” .

While authorities had not released a national turnout estimate as of late afternoon, police or local authorities counted around 1,000 people each in Lyon, Nantes, Bordeaux and Marseille.

Protesters hoped to top the 105,000 who took to the streets last weekend, some perhaps spurred by Macron’s statement in a newspaper interview that he wanted to ‘p**s off’ the unvaccinated with new restrictions until they accept a coronavirus vaccine.

Members of the National Assembly approved the vaccine bill in the upper house in the early hours of Saturday. The Senate is expected to finally pass it on Sunday after the two chambers back and forth on issues such as the minimum age for the pass and whether landlords should be empowered to verify the identity of customers.

People attend a demonstration called by the French nationalist party Les Patriotes (Les Patriotes) in Place du Trocadero in Paris, France [Benoit Tessier/Reuters]

“Vaccine Pass”

As a first step, a measure came into force on Saturday that will deactivate the government-issued ‘health pass’ for tens of thousands of people who have not received a booster shot within seven months of their first round of vaccines .

The pass, which grants access to public spaces like bars and restaurants, will be turned into a ‘vaccine pass’ under the law currently being debated in parliament, meaning that proof of having the vaccine will be required.

So far, people have been able to keep their valid passes with negative coronavirus tests.

“It was urgent” to get stung, Juan Fernandez, 32, told AFP immediately after receiving his ball on Saturday morning. “When you go out, you need the health pass every time, that’s the main reason why I did it.”

The stricter measures have been pushed hard by the government as it faces a surge of infections with the faster-spreading Omicron variant.

Protests in Austria

Meanwhile, in the Austrian capital, Vienna, the government’s plan to introduce compulsory COVID-19 vaccinations for everyone next month has come under renewed pressure as thousands of protesters took to the streets to rally against this decision.

“The government must go!” Crowds chanted at a rally in central Vienna in what has become a routine Saturday event. Parliament is due to vote next week on the issue, which has polarized the country as coronavirus cases rise.

A poll for Profil magazine found that 51% of respondents oppose compulsory vaccination from February, of which 34% were against compulsory vaccination in general and 17% wanted to wait. The survey found that 45% of Austrians were in favor of compulsory vaccination from February.