(EFE).- Opponents of French President Emmanuel Macron’s response to a new wave of Covid-19 took to the streets Saturday for the third consecutive week and in larger numbers than previously.
Nationwide, more than 204,000 people took part in demonstrations, according to the interior ministry, up from 110,000 on July 17 and 161,000 a week ago.
As on earlier occasions, the largest protests were in Paris, where some 15,000 people turned out at the urging of various groups united only by their objections to policies such as the expanded use of a pandemic health pass and a requirement that health workers be vaccinated for Covid-19.
Florian Philippot, founder and leader of the right-wing Patriots party, has used the battle over the health crisis to revive a political career that seemed to be moribund after he was driven out of France’s main far-right force, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally.
The former member of the European Parliament denounces the pass mandate as “liberticide” and calls the vaccine requirement for health workers dictatorial.
Le Pen, who shares Philippot’s critique of government policy, did not join the protest but urged Macron to heed the message of the demonstrations.
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The leader of the leftist France Unbowed party, Jean-Luc Melenchon, has likewise endorsed the protests, describing the health pass as a “bad idea.”
Authorities in the capital deployed 3,000 police in the hope of averting disturbances and cops ultimately resorted to tear gas and water cannon to disperse a march that culminated in Place de la Bastille square.
Three officers were hurt while trying to isolate violent elements from the rest of the protesters.
On Monday, lawmakers gave final approval to the government’s bill requiring health workers to get the vaccine and vastly increasing the scope of the health pass.
Currently obligatory for museums, cinemas and tourist sites, the new measure expands the pass mandate to restaurants, bars, intercity trains and buses and commercial flights.
The pass attests that the bearer has either been vaccinated, tested negative for coronavirus within the last 48 hours or had and recovered from Covid-19 during the preceding six months.
Roughly a third of France’s medical personnel have yet to be fully vaccinated for coronavirus.
Set to be reviewed next Thursday by the Constitutional Council, the new regulations are expected to take effect Aug. 9.
In their latest bulletin, French health officials reported 23,471 new cases and 43 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the totals since the start of the pandemic to 6.08 million and 112,000 respectively.
The seven-day moving average of fresh infections surged from 11,697 a day on July 21 to 21,497 on July 27. EFE
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