France braces for protests as anger grows over tighter rules on COVID passes

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Thousands across France are set to take to the streets today to protest against changes to the country’s COVID-19 pass regulations.

Government officials confirmed on Tuesday that they plan to enact a law which would effectively block unvaccinated people from hospitality venues.

Until now, France has enforced coronavirus health pass, requiring people to show proof of a recent negative test or proof of vaccination for entry into restaurants, cafes and cinemas, as well as to board trains.

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The new change will remove the option of showing a negative test, meaning unvaccinated people will be barred from hospitality venues or trains.

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Macron cracks down on unvaccinated

What are the changes?

France introduced a health pass last year that prevents people without a negative PCR test or proof of vaccination from entering hospitality venues, inter-regional trains and buses, and domestic flights.

More on Covid-19

But it now wants to turn the pass into a vaccine passport, which means only fully vaccinated people will have access.

“I won’t send (the unvaccinated) to prison,” President Emmanuel Macron said. “I won’t vaccinate by force. So we need to tell them, from 15 January, you won’t be able to go to the restaurant anymore, you won’t be able to down one, won’t be able to have a coffee, go to the theatre, the cinema.”

Those opposed to vaccination undermine “the strength of a nation”, Mr Macron added.

How is Omicron spreading across the world?

The plans have faced strong opposition from anti-vaccination campaigners and far-right and far-left groups, but have been backed by the government.

Protests are expected to take place across France today, with demonstrators opposing the latest COVID pass changes.

Violent protests broke out in Guadeloupe and Martinique, both French Caribbean territories, back in November when Mr Macron brought in a requirement for all healthcare workers to be vaccinated, a measure that is still in force in mainland France.

Macron wants to ‘p*** off’ anti-vaxxers

President Macron was quoted earlier this week in Le Parisien saying that he wants to “p*** off” unvaccinated people.

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech on France assuming EU presidency on 9 December
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Macron said he wants to “p*** off” unvaccinated people

Speaking to the newspaper, he said: “The unvaccinated, I really want to p*** them off. And so, we’re going to continue doing so, until the end. That’s the strategy.”

Opponents to the plans have accused Mr Macron of behaviour unbecoming of a president. Opposition lawmaker Sebastien Jumel said the president “deliberately chose to add hysteria to the debate”.

Macron is facing re-election in April. He hasn’t yet declared his candidacy, but his intentions of doing so are becoming ever clearer. In the Le Parisien interview, he said: “There is no false suspense. I want to.”

COVID-19 cases could reach peak in 10 days

On 7 January, Professor Alain Fischer, an official responsible for France’s COVID vaccine strategy, warned that the peak would come “primarily towards the beginning of the second fortnight of January, so if we work it out this would be in around 10 days’ time”.

He also told France’s LCI TV: “I think we are coming to the peak of this new wave.”

The government now wants to turn this pass into a vaccine passport, which means only the fully vaccinated will have access.

France is one of many countries that has seen a huge rise in cases as Omicron spreads. Pic: AP
Image:
France has seen a huge rise in cases as Omicron spreads. Pic: AP

Coronavirus patients are taking up more than 72% of France’s intensive care unit beds, and most of them are unvaccinated.

There are more than 20,000 people hospitalised with the virus – a number that has been increasing steadily for weeks but not as sharply as the country’s cases.

France registered 261,481 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, which was less than the record of more than 332,000 that was set on Wednesday.

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