Protesters march in France against new Covid-19 'health pass' rules

Some accuse the president of trampling on freedoms and discriminating against those who do not want the Covid vaccine

Police in Paris clashed with protesters railing against President Emmanuel Macron's plan to require a Covid-19 vaccine certificate or negative PCR test to gain entry to bars, restaurants and cinemas from next month.

Mr Macron this week announced sweeping measures to fight a rapid surge in new coronavirus infections, including the mandatory vaccination of health workers and new health pass rules for the wider public.

Cafes, restaurants and shopping malls will be required to check the health passes of all their customers starting from August, with unvaccinated people needing a negative test.

Critics of Mr Macron's plan accuse the president of trampling on freedoms and discriminating against those who do not want the Covid shot.

Some protesters at Wednesday's demonstrations wore badges saying “No to the health pass", while others chanted "down with dictatorship" and said their rallies were "in the name of freedom".

“It's totally arbitrary and wholly undemocratic,” said one protester, who identified himself as Jean-Louis.

The police fired teargas on several occasions as pockets of protesters overturned rubbish bins and set a mechanical digger alight.

Police accused protesters in Paris of throwing projectiles and flouting the declared protest route.

The show of discontent took place on Bastille Day, the anniversary of the 1789 storming of the medieval fortress in Paris which marked the turning point in the French Revolution.

There were protests in other cities as well, including Nantes, Marseille and Montpellier, with French authorities putting the total number of protesters at 19,000.

Mr Macron says the vaccine is the best way to put France back on the path to normality and that he is encouraging as many people as possible to `be inoculated.

In doing so, he went further than most other European nations have done as the highly contagious Delta variant fans a new wave of cases.

Since the announcement, a record number of French people have booked appointments for Covid jabs. Other governments are watching carefully to see how the French public responds.

Among other proposals in the government's draft bill is the mandatory isolation for 10 days of anyone who tests positive, with police making random checks, French media reported.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Tuesday that the measure could hardly be seen as dictatorial when 11 other routine vaccines were already mandatory in France.

After a year of studying the vaccines in clinical trials and real-world inoculation programmes, "the time of doubting is long past", he said.

Updated: July 15th 2021, 8:02 AM