French protesters hate health pass
Opposition to Macron shows escalation across country
Published: Aug 08, 2021 05:43 PM
A protester holds a sign reading

A protester holds a sign reading "No to the health pass - Macron to the Gulag" during a demonstration against the mandatory COVID-19 health pass to access most of the public space, in Paris on Saturday. Photo: AFP

Almost a quarter of a million people took to the streets across France on Saturday for the biggest protests yet against a coronavirus health pass needed to enter a cafe or travel on an inter-city train, two days before the new rules come into force.

Similar but smaller protests were held in Italy.

Championed by President Emmanuel Macron, the French regulations make it obligatory to have either a full course of vaccination against COVID-19, a negative test or be recently recovered from the virus to enjoy routine activities.

Macron, who faces re-election in 2o22, hopes to encourage all French to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and thereby defeat the virus and its fast-spreading Delta variant.

But opponents - who have now held four weekends of consecutive protests - argue the rules encroach on civil liberties in a country where individual freedom is highly prized.

About 237,000 people turned out across France, including 17,000 in Paris, the interior ministry said, exceeding the 204,000 recorded last weekend - unusual numbers for protests at the height of the summer break.

In one of several protests in Paris, hundreds marched from the western suburbs to the center, chanting "Freedom!" and "Macron, we don't want your pass!"

Wearing a mask, Alexandre Fourez, 34, said he was protesting for the first time and that he had himself recovered from COVID-19.

At least 37,000 people protested in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur region on the Mediterranean coast in cities including Toulon, Nice and Marseille, officials said. 

Slogans included: "The health pass means the death of freedoms."