Thousands protest against Covid-19 health pass in France as stricter rules loom

8 August 2021, 17:17

Protesters took to the streets across France on Saturday for the fourth weekend in a row to rally against a new health pass needed to enter a cafe or travel on an inter-city train, two days before the new rules come into force.
Protesters took to the streets across France on Saturday for the fourth weekend in a row to rally against a new health pass needed to enter a cafe or travel on an inter-city train, two days before the new rules come into force. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

Protestors took to the streets of France for the fourth weekend in a row to rally against a new health pass needed to enter a cafe or travel on an inter-city train.

The demonstrations in Paris and other French cities on Saturday came 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.

Under the new law, there will be more places where health passes are required from Monday. The pass will be needed 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.

Read more: Covid health pass comes into effect in France as cases continue to rise

A valid health pass is generated by two jabs from a recognised vaccine, a negative coronavirus test or a recent recovery from infection.

Thousands of people have been in uproar over the plans, in what opponents have described "restrictions on personal freedom".

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 organised in other French cities.

Recent polls show that most people in France support the health passes but opponents say the pass requirement limits their movements outside home and implicitly renders vaccines obligatory.

Covid-19 vaccines are set to become mandatory for health care workers in the country from September 15, another rule which has proved controversial with opponents.

Meanwhile, a growing number of European countries have began introducing the health passes following a rise in cases.

France is registering more than 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. About 54% of the population are fully vaccinated.

In Italy, a so-called "Green Pass" was introduced on Friday, meaning people will need to show their health pass to access indoor dining, gyms, theatres, cinemas and other gathering places.

In Austria, the pass is needed to enter restaurants, theatres, hotels, sports facilities and hairdressers.

Vaccine passports will also be made a requirement to enter a nightclub in the UK from the end of September.

Protester wears a Statue of Liberty costume, during a national day of protest against the compulsory Covid-19 vaccination for certain workers and the mandatory use of the health pass called for by the French government in Paris
Protester wears a Statue of Liberty costume, during a national day of protest against the compulsory Covid-19 vaccination for certain workers and the mandatory use of the health pass called for by the French government in Paris. Picture: Alamy

The Prime Minister's decision to introduce vaccine passports at clubs has faced backlash in recent weeks, with owner's branding the decision "a shambles".

Read more: PM's plans for vaccine passports in clubs branded 'absolute shambles'

Night Time Industries Association chief executive Michael Kill, said: "80% of nightclubs have said they do not want to implement Covid passports, worrying about difficulties with enforcing the system and a reduction in spontaneous consumers, as well as being put at a competitive disadvantage with pubs and bars that aren't subject to the same restrictions and yet provide similar environments."

Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said clubs had the potential to cause "super spreading events".

Mark Harper, the Conservative former chief whip who chairs the Covid Recovery Group of Tory lockdown-sceptics, criticised the plans as "effectively moving to compulsory vaccination".

Nightclubs, DJs and influencers have since clubbed together for the ‘Don’t Miss Out’ and ‘Get Your Shot’ campaign to encourage young people to get vaccinated against coronavirus.

Read more: Get jabbed so you ‘don’t miss out’ young people told in new campaign

The campaign urges adults not to miss out on newfound freedoms once vaccine passports are introduced for nightclubs in September.