PARIS (Dispatches) – Thousands of people demonstrated in the streets of France again on Saturday against the government’s Covid-19 vaccination policies.
Saturday’s protests were called for the sixth weekend in a row to denounce a new “health pass” system announced by President Emmanuel Macron that they see as unfairly restricting the rights of the unvaccinated.
Under the system, introduced progressively since mid-July, anyone wishing to enter a restaurant, theater, cinema, long-distance train, or large shopping center must show proof of vaccination or a negative test.
Around 200,000 people have marched in previous weekends, according to interior ministry figures, while organizers say the real number is nearly double that.
At the head of the Paris march in the early afternoon, a few hundred people held up flags and banners with the word “Liberty” on them while shouting “Macron! We don’t want your pass!”
The protest movement has brought together anti-vaxxers, former members of the “Yellow Vest” anti-government movement, as well as people concerned that the system unfairly creates a two-tier society.
Far-right leader Florian Philippot, who has accused Macron of turning France into a dictatorship and likened the health pass to apartheid, was at the Paris rally on Saturday.
The government insists the pass is necessary to encourage vaccination uptake and avoid a fourth national lockdown, with the unjabbed making up eight or nine out of every 10 Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital.
The most severe Covid-19 hotpots are found in France’s overseas territories such as the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe, as well as the Pacific islands of French Polynesia where the more infectious Delta variant has ripped through.
Polynesian authorities announced on Saturday that schools, restaurants and bars would close for two weeks, while a nightly curfew will be brought forward by an hour to 8 pm.
Tourists have been told to stay in their hotels on the islands where the number of infections has increased by a multiple of 14 in two weeks, according to the head of the islands, Edouard Fritch.
France as a whole reported around 22,000 new infections in the past 24 hours, health ministry figures show.