France, Italy gripped by mass protests over new COVID restrictions
Iran Press TV
Sunday, 08 August 2021 6:31 AM
Protesters have staged street rallies in France and Italy against COVID restrictions, which they say infringe on their civil liberties.
Hundreds of thousands of French protesters took to the streets on Saturday in opposition to government-issued health passes and mandatory vaccines for healthcare workers.
Some 17,000 people demonstrated in Paris, while between 10,000 and 20,000 people marched in Nice. Both demonstrations went on peacefully despite the participation of Yellow Vests protesters in the rallies.
Scuffles did break out between police and protesters in France's third-largest city, Lyon.
The French Interior Ministry estimated that 237,000 people turned out nationwide on the fourth weekend of protests against the new COVID rules.
Government officials insist that the new restrictions are needed to curb the COVID pandemic, which has once more surged as new highly contagious mutant variants of the coronavirus emerge.
France is currently in the grip of the fourth wave of coronavirus.
More than 55 percent of the French population is fully vaccinated.
People seeking to attend indoor events were already required to have a health pass showing they are vaccinated. Starting on Monday, it will also be required for those who want to visit bars and restaurants, or for those traveling on long-distance trains or on airplanes.
In the northern town of Cambrai in France, nearly every restaurant and cafe closed their doors to protest against the health pass requirements.
"We're not against the vaccine. We're against having to run checks on our patrons," said shopkeeper Laurent Zannier.
French health employees have been given until September 15 to either get vaccinated or face suspension.
"I'd rather not be paid than be forced to have the vaccine," Diane Hekking, a hospital psychiatrist, told Reuters at an anti-vaccine protest rally in Paris.
Similar protests were held in Italy's main cities of Rome and Milan over the so-called green pass.
The pass certifies its bearer has either been vaccinated with at least one dose, has recovered from COVID-19 within the past six months, or has tested negative in the previous 48 hours.
Starting on Friday, people in Italy need to have a green pass to enter museums, sports venues, movie theaters and restaurants.
School teachers, university staff and students are also required to show the pass.
More than 63 percent of people over 12 have been vaccinated in Italy so far.
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