PARIS (AP) — Thousands of people were expected to march in Paris and other French cities during a fourth consecutive week of protests against COVID-19 entrance requirements and what opponents see as restrictions on personal freedom.
The demonstrations on Saturday come two days after France’s Constitutional Council upheld most provisions of a new law that expands the locations where health passes are needed to enter.
Starting Monday, the pass will be required to access cafes, restaurants, long-distance travel and, in some cases, hospitals. It was already in place for cultural and recreational venues, including cinemas, concert halls and theme parks with capacity for more than 50 people.
A crowd of protesters walked peacefully in the west of Paris on Saturday afternoon while surrounded by police in full riot gear. Three more separate gatherings were planned in the French capital, and dozens of street protests were organized in other French cities.
Some demonstrators are also protesting the government making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for health care workers by Sept. 15.
Polls show that most people in France support the health passes, which are issued to individuals either vaccinated against the coronavirus or who have proof of recovering from COVID-19 or negative results from a recent test.
Opponents say the pass requirement limits their movements outside home and implicitly renders vaccines obligatory.
Over 36 million people in France - about 54% of the population - are fully vaccinated. At least 7 million have gotten their first vaccine shot since French President Emmanuel Macron announced the health pass on July 12.
France is registering over 21,000 new confirmed virus cases daily, a steep climb from one month ago. More than 112,000 people with the virus have died in the country since the start of the pandemic.
A growing number of European countries have started implemented virus pass requirements, each with slightly different rules.
Protests have been held last month in neighboring Italy against a pass to access indoor dining, gyms, theaters, cinemas and other gathering places. The so-called “Green Pass” entered into force on Friday.
Denmark pioneered vaccine passes with little resistance. In Austria, the pass is needed to enter into restaurants, theatres, hotels, sports facilities and hairdressers.
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