PARIS (AP) — Thousands of people marched around France on Saturday to protest mandatory vaccinations for health care workers and COVID-19 passes that will be required to enter restaurants and other venues.
A march in Paris led by a far-right, anti-vaccine politician drew an usually sizable crowd, swelled by anger over the new virus rules President Emmanuel Macron announced this week.
Marchers chanted “Liberty!” and carried signs denouncing a “medical dictatorship” and Macron. Demonstrations also took place in Strasbourg in the east, Lille in the north, Montpellier in the south and elsewhere in France.
Macron’s measures are aimed at slowing the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus and protecting hospitals from a new surge of .
Macron ordered all health care workers to get vaccinated by Sept. 15, and announced that special COVID-19 passes will be required in all restaurants, bars, hospitals, shopping malls, trains, and planes. To get a pass, which will be needed at restaurants starting next month, people must be fully vaccinated, have recently recovered from the virus, or have a negative virus test.
The measures have prompted record numbers of people to sign up for vaccinations in recent days — but have also prompted anger among some groups.
Meanwhile, the French government announced tightened border controls starting Sunday, but also said it would allow in travelers from anywhere in the world who have been fully vaccinated. That includes people who received AstraZeneca’s Indian-manufactured vaccine, and not just AstraZeneca vaccines made in Europe.
The move to start accepting visitors vaccinated with AstraZeneca’s vaccine made by India’s Serum Institute came after a global outcry over the fact that the European Union’s COVID-19 certificate only recognizes AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured in Europe.
Several other EU countries already recognize the Indian version, which is used in the U.K. and around Africa. The varied rules from each country have further complicated this summer's travel season.
France still doesn't recognize the COVID-19 vaccines made in China or Russia, only the ones authorized by the EU drug regulator: those made by Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca.
Starting Sunday, France will also start requiring anyone who isn't vaccinated arriving from Britain, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Greece or Cyprus to present a negative test less than 24 hours old to cross French borders.
The government also added Tunisia, Indonesia, Cuba and Mozambique to France’s “red list” of countries with high virus risk, according to Saturday’s statement. However, France now will grant entry to travelers from any red list countries if they are fully vaccinated.
Elaine Ganley in Montpellier contributed.
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Constantin Gouvy And Angela Charlton, The Associated Press