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Mass protests continue in France against Covid health pass rule

From Monday, people in France would need the health pass if they want to eat at restaurants, cafes or use inter-city transport.

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets across France for the fourth weekend in a row against a coronavirus health pass needed to enter a cafe or travel on an inter-city train, two days before the new rules come into force.

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Championed by President Emmanuel Macron, the regulations make it obligatory to have either a full course of vaccination against Covid-19, a negative test or recently recovered from the virus to enjoy routine activities.

Macron, who faces re-election next year, hopes to encourage all French to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and thereby defeat the virus and its fast-spreading Delta variant.

Encroachment on civil liberties?

But opponents, who have turned out en masse in the past weeks, argue the rules encroach on civil liberties in a country where individual freedom is prized.

From Monday, the health pass will be needed to eat in a restaurant or enjoy a drink in a cafe both indoors and on a terrace.

It will be obligatory on inter-city transport including high-speed trains and domestic flights although will not be needed on metro systems and suburban transport.

The pass has already been required since July 21 to visit cultural venues such as cinemas, theatres and museums.

Its extension was approved by France’s Constitutional Council on Thursday.

In one of several protests in Paris, hundreds marched from the western suburbs to the centre, chanting “Freedom!” and “Macron, we don’t want your pass!”.

Wearing a mask, Alexandre Fourez, 34, said he was protesting for the first time and that he had himself recovered from Covid.

“The problem with the health pass is that our hand is being forced,” said the marketing employee, adding he “really has difficulty believing its use will be temporary”.

‘Death of freedoms’

At least 37,000 people protested in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region on the Mediterranean coast in cities including Toulon, Nice and Marseille, officials said.

Slogans included “the health pass means the death of freedoms”.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal said that the pass, which under current rules will be required until November 15, was needed to avoid further restrictions as the country fights a fourth wave of the Covid-19 epidemic.

The vaccine rollout has gathered steam in France since the health pass plan was announced and the government wants 50 million people to have received at least one jab by the end of August.

Almost 55 percent of the population is now double jabbed.

With around 25,000 new infections recorded on Friday, cases remain high but stable.

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