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France: Tens of thousands protest against COVID pass, vaccination

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By Euronews with AFP
Anti-vaccine protesters holds a banner that reads health pass equal apartheid during a rally in Paris, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
Anti-vaccine protesters holds a banner that reads health pass equal apartheid during a rally in Paris, Saturday, July 17, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Michel Euler
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Tens of thousands took to the streets throughout France on Saturday to protest against the new coronavirus rules announced by the government earlier this week.

The controversial measures include mandatory vaccination for health workers and an obligation for citizens to bring in a health pass for most public places.

The health pass is given to those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have proof of a negative test taken within 48 hours.

In Paris, one demonstrator's blouse read "No to compulsory vaccination, freedom violated!", while another's placard said: "Macron, no to the health dictatorship."

In Marseille, protesters held a banner depicting faces of politicians, including French President Emmanuel Macron with Hitler's moustache.

CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU/AFP
Protestors install a banner depicting faces of politicians, such as French President, with Hitler's moustache, in Marseille on July 17, 2021.CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU/AFP

An estimated 1,500 people demonstrated in the French capital.

In the southern cities of Montpellier and Marseille, authorities counted respectively 5,000 and 4,250 protesters.

Protesters also took to the streets of Toulouse, Nice, Lille, Strasbourg, Metz and other cities.

"We are not anti-vaccine at all. We just want everyone to have the freedom to be vaccinated or not. PCR tests may be enough and then we must keep them free," shopping centre employees Aurélie and Tiphaine told AFP at the Paris protest.

Several yellow vests protesters took part in the gatherings throughout the country.

"We are here for the demands of the yellow vests and the restrictions on freedoms. It's not another freedom-killing law that makes us go out into the street. We have always been in the street," said Jérôme Rodrigues, a prominent figure in the yellow vest movement.

A number of far-right parties' leaders joined the protest in the French capital.

The French government says the new measures are necessary to curb the fast-spreading Delta variant, which is fueling a wave of new infections in the country.

On Friday, public health authorities reported over 10,900 new cases -- that is almost a three-fold increase compared to mid-June.

Since Macron's announcements on Monday, vaccinations have spiked in France after a marked slowdown in recent weeks.

According to an opinion poll conducted earlier this week, 58% of French people approve the extension of the health pass to cafés and restaurants. 66% are in favour of using it to access cultural venues.