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France sees 5th weekend of protests against mandatory vaccine, health pass

French right-wing "Les Patriotes" party leader Florian Philippot (C) and lawyer for public health Fabrice di Vizio (R) stand on stage at a protest rally against the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for health workers, and the mandatory use of the health pass, in Paris on August 14, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Protesters have taken to the streets in France once more to show their opposition to strict health protocols imposed by the government to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Protesters rallied in cities across France for a fifth consecutive weekend on Saturday, marching through the streets of Paris, Marseille, Nice, Montpellier and other towns.

They demanded “freedom” and condemned President Emmanuel Macron's plans for mandatory vaccination of health workers and special health passes for anyone seeking to enter public places such as restaurants and movie theaters.

Since Monday, the French have been forced to show their health passes to the police in order to gain entrance to public places and transportation.

The passes indicate that the bearer has either been vaccinated or recently tested negative for the coronavirus.

The vaccine skeptics and those who consider the health pass to be discriminatory, alongside remnants of the anti-government "Yellow Vest" movement that shook Macron's leadership in 2018-2019, have been demanding an easing of the new rules.

In Paris and Nice, many hospital workers joined the protesting masses to express opposition to anti-COVID measures. Many believe that the vaccines could be ineffective, or even dangerous.

"Today, we're treated like savages. We're being insulted, we're being told we're contaminators, whereas the vaccine today is not effective and can also be contaminated and infectious," a hospital worker, who identified herself as Carole, told Reuters.

Another protester, who refused to be identified, said the health protocols were “inexplicable” because they not only deprived French citizens of their rights, but also stopped them from going to health institutions.

"It (health pass) takes away the liberty of people of whether they want to be vaccinated or not, if they want to go left or right, it deprives them of everything in fact. It deprives them of going to a hospital, those who are sick, it deprives them of everything. I find this inexplicable," the protester said.

In the meantime, approximately 70 percent of the French population has now received one dose and 57.5 percent are fully vaccinated. Vaccination rates have surged since Macron’s government introduced the health pass plan.

Experts at the country’s Institut Pasteur estimate that at least 90 percent of all adults should be fully vaccinated before herd immunity is achieved.

Health experts are saying, however, that for full relaxation of COVID restrictions to be possible, more vaccine doses will be needed as the novel coronavirus keeps mutating.

Protest leaders insist that they do not want to compromise their freedom to receive jabs.

Meanwhile, the number of people being treated for COVID-19 in intensive care units in France has more than doubled in less than a month.

Nearly 10 percent of France’s 67 million population has been contaminated so far and the official death toll stands at over 113,000.

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