Thousands in France protest against Covid-19 health pass

The pass is set to be extended on August 9 to cover entry to businesses such as cafes

Tens of thousands of people across France took to the streets on Saturday to protest against a coronavirus health pass for the fourth weekend in a row.

The pass is set to be expanded on August 9 to cover entry to businesses such as cafes or travel on intercity trains, although it will not be needed on metro systems and suburban transport.

The measure will mean people will only be able to perform various routine activities if they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, have recently recovered from the disease or test negative for infection.

President Emmanuel Macron, who is up for re-election next year, hopes to encourage all French citizens to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

But protesters claim the new rules will encroach on civil liberties.

The pass is already needed to visit cultural venues such as cinemas, theatres and museums. The expansion of the initiative was approved by France's Constitutional Council on Thursday.

At one of several protests in Paris, hundreds marched from the western suburbs to the centre, chanting "freedom" and "Macron, we don't want your pass".

Alexandre Fourez, 34, said he was protesting against the pass for the first time and that he had recovered from Covid-19.

"The problem with the health pass is that our hand is being forced," he said.

He said he "really has difficulty believing its use will be temporary".

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

The Interior Ministry said more than 200,000 people took part in protests last weekend and more than 160,000 joined rallies the weekend before.

Although many protesters refuse to be vaccinated, some have taken the shots but object to the principle of the health pass.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal said the pass, which under current rules will be required until November 15, was necessary to avoid further restrictions as the country fights a fourth wave of infection.

The government wants to have given 50 million people at least one dose of vaccine by the end of August.

Updated: August 7th 2021, 4:49 PM
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