France and Italy protest against COVID health pass.
Protesters took to the streets in France and Italy on Saturday in opposition to COVID rules that they say violate their civil liberties, but which officials say are necessary to curb the coronavirus pandemic.
The protests come as European countries redouble their efforts to vaccinate a large part of their populations against the spreading delta variant, and in an attempt to prevent further closures.
What happened in France?
The demonstrations against France’s health pass and mandatory vaccinations for health workers entered their fourth weekend, and Saturday had the largest demonstration to date.
An estimated 237,000 people attended across the country, according to the Interior Ministry. The figure exceeds the attendance of a week ago, which saw 204,000 protesters.
While 17,000 people attended Paris, much of the attention was focused on the south of France, where between 10,000 and 20,000 people marched in Nice alone.
Unlike the previous weekends, the demonstrations were largely peaceful. The biggest fights broke out between protesters and police in Lyon, the third-largest city in France.
The protests come on the heels of a Building Council ruling on Thursday. The court approved the government’s plan for health pass and vaccine requirements for hospital workers in nursing homes.
France is currently in the grip of the fourth wave of coronavirus infections. The county has seen a surge in vaccinations since French President Emmanuel Macron announced the health pass in July.
About two-thirds of the French population eligible for the jab have received a dose, while 55% are fully vaccinated.
What happened in Italy?
Italy also saw thousands of people demonstrate against the implementation of the country’s Green Pass, which is now a requirement for teachers and individuals to attend indoor events.
The ANSA news agency reported that “thousands” marched in the city of Milan in an unauthorized protest.
Some members of the anti-vaccine movement wore widely condemned yellow star badges that read “not vaccinated,” resembling those the Nazis forced Jews to wear.
Another 1,500 people gathered in Rome with signs saying: “No to the Green Pass!” while in Naples, around 100 anti-vax protesters demonstrated against vaccines for children.
Italy has overseen a successful vaccination campaign, with more than 63% of the population over 12 years of age being fully vaccinated.
What is the health pass?
The Health Pass in France and the Green Pass in Italy are digital certificates that provide proof of a person’s coronavirus status.
They contain data on whether the person has been vaccinated against COVID-19, has recently tested negative, or has recovered from the virus.
The pass is already mandatory in France for those who want to go to the cinema or attend other important events. Starting Monday, it will also be mandatory for those who want to visit bars and restaurants, or for those traveling on long-distance trains or airplanes.
In Italy, the Green Pass is required to enter museums, sports venues, cinemas and to dine inside. School teachers, university staff, and university students must also show the pass.