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France extends Macron’s COVID pass despite protests

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The Government is pressing ahead with the extension of an already-existing health pass to cafes, restaurants and intercity travel, despite four weekends of angry protests. Here, protesters in the southern French city of Toulon rally against the health pass on Saturday.

FRANCE: France on Monday began enforcing a COVID pass championed by President Emmanuel Macron in cafes, restaurants and trains, a tightening of rules the Government hopes will boost vaccinations but which has prompted weeks of angry protests.

The pass, already needed for the last three weeks to go to a cinema, attend a concert or visit a museum, will be needed to partake in usually routine aspects of life in France such as sipping a coffee in a cafe or travelling on an inter-city train.

Almost a quarter of a million rallied nationwide on Saturday against the extension of the pass, the biggest in four consecutive weekends of protests, but Macron has shown little patience with the demonstrators’ concerns over vaccination or alleged erosion of civil liberties.

The health pass is generated in a QR code either by a full course of vaccinations, a recent negative virus test or a recovery from COVID-19. The Government expects a one-week grace period for consumers and businesses to get used to the new rules.

Macron hopes the plan will further accelerate the vaccination drive in France where over 55 percent are now double-jabbed. Aides have noted that almost seven million new bookings were made for first jabs since the plans were outlined. The President, who faces re-election next year, has in recent days repeatedly taken to the social media platform TikTok, popular among young people, to get his message across. “Get vaccinated. Get vaccinated. Get vaccinated,” Macron said in the latest video Friday.

“It’s a question of being a good citizen… our freedom is worth nothing if we infect our friends, neighbours or grandparents. To be free is to be responsible.”

About 237,000 people protested across France on Saturday, including 17,000 in Paris, the interior ministry said, exceeding the 204,000 recorded last weekend — numbers that are extremely unusual for protests at the height of the summer break.

In remarks to the Paris Match weekly, Macron made no secret of his frustration with the protesters, who he described as “a few tens of thousands of citizens who have lost their senses to such an extent that they say they live in a dictatorship.” “I will not give into their radical violence,” he added. – NDTV

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