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Thousands Protest Against France's Coronavirus Health Pass As Stricter Rules Loom

Protesters gathered in Paris on Saturday to oppose a requirement to use a health pass to enter businesses or use public transportation.
Adrienne Surprenant
Protesters gathered in Paris on Saturday to oppose a requirement to use a health pass to enter businesses or use public transportation.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets Saturday across France for the fourth consecutive weekend of rallies against a requirement for a new pandemic health pass needed to enter most businesses or use public transportation.

The latest round of protests come after France's highest court upheld the majority of a new law requiring the health pass and for health care workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. The court wrote that those provisions complied with the nation's founding charter.

According to a notice from the French government issued July 29, residents were required to "present a health pass to access leisure and culture venues and events bringing together more than 50 people."

Beginning Monday, the health passes will be required to enter bars, restaurants, and malls — and to access long-distance travel by plane, train or bus.

The pass — championed by President Emmanuel Macron — requires proof of vaccination, a negative coronavirus test result in the past 48 hours, or showing that one has recovered from the virus for at least 15 days (but not more than six months).

As France enters a "fourth wave" of the coronavirus pandemic, Macron hopes the new rules will encourage residents to be vaccinated and stave off the fast-spreading delta variant.

Polls show most people in France support the health passes.

In July, Macron also announced that health care workers were required to get vaccinated by Sept. 15 — or they would be banned from work and not be paid.

The Associated Press reported that a largely peaceful crowd of protesters walked through the streets of Paris surrounded by police clad in riot gear. The protesters carried signs that read: "Our freedoms are dying" and "Vaccine: Don't touch our kids."

Confirmed case counts were on a largely downward trend in April through June before sharply increasing in mid July. The nation has so far recorded more than 112,000 deaths that have been attributed to the virus.

More than 36 million people in France, about 54% of the population, have so far been fully vaccinated. At least 7 million have gotten their first vaccine shot since Macron announced the health pass on July 12.

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Dave Mistich
Originally from Washington, W.Va., Dave Mistich joined NPR part-time as an associate producer for the Newcast unit in September 2019 — after nearly a decade of filing stories for the network as a Member station reporter at West Virginia Public Broadcasting. In July 2021, he also joined the Newsdesk as a part-time reporter.