Hundreds of thousands gather across Europe in various protests against coronavirus measures

Hundreds of thousands gather across Europe in various protests against coronavirus measures
Protests in France. Credit: Belga

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in several European countries, including France, Italy and Greece during the weekend to demonstrate against several coronavirus measures, from the extension of health passes to mandatory vaccination.

In France, protests were sparked after the bill making coronavirus health passes mandatory by law to enter certain public spaces was passed on Friday in the lower house of parliament and was approved by the upper house, dominated by the right-wing opposition, which made substantial changes to it.

The government had announced it would make carrying a coronavirus health pass, which indicates that a person has been fully vaccinated, has undergone a recent negative PCR test or has recently recovered from the virus, a requirement for entering certain public spaces, including cinemas, theatres, and museums from 21 July and restaurants, cafés and shopping centre from August.

More than 160,000 demonstrators waved banners, shouted slogans and called on President Emmanuel Macron and the government to resign, whilst some clashed with police, who deployed teargas and water cannons against the protestors and made a number of arrests.

An amendment to the bill excluded minors from the new requirement, scrapping the words “aged at least 12 years” from the draft and replacing them with the word “adults”. Senators also approved a modification limiting the health pass requirement to “confined” indoor spaces, thereby excluding terraces, in particular.

On the other hand, an amendment to grant a provisional health pass to persons who have had one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, instead of two, was rejected.

The modifications can still be undone by a mixed parity commission, whilst they can also be scrapped as the bill moves between the National Assembly and the Senate.

'Living like slaves'

Meanwhile, in Italy, the government announced on Thursday that a “green pass” would be required from 6 August onward to enter enclosed areas such as restaurants, bars, swimming pools, sports halls, museums, cinemas, theatres and game rooms in an attempt to slow down the spread of the coronavirus as cases skyrocket.

This resulted in protestors in at least 80 cities, from Naples in the south to Turin in the north, taking to the streets shouting slogans such as "Freedom" and "No to dictatorship", whilst in Milan, where there have been heavy downpours,  marchers, the vast majority of whom did not wear face masks, shouted: "No to the health pass".

"It’s better to die free than to live like a slave," one placard outside the Milan Cathedral on Saturday read.

Italy’s green pass can be issued to people who have had a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and those who have been cured of the virus or who have had a negative test result in the previous 48 hours.

Thursday’s announcement sent people flocking to vaccination centres, which saw increases of 200% and above in some regions, according to Francesco Figliuolo, extraordinary commissioner in charge of the vaccination campaign.

In Belgium, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced during the last Consultative Committee that the Belgian equivalent - the Covid Safe Ticket - will be necessary to enter both small and large-scale events, however, the pass has not been extended to other public spaces.

Mandatory vaccination

In Athens, Greece, the police clashed with several protestors, and deployed teargas and water cannons, during demonstrations on Saturday opposing coronavirus vaccinations becoming mandatory for some workers, such as healthcare and nursing staff.

More than 4,000 people rallied outside the Greek parliament for a third time this month after the Greek government announced the decision.

However, recent polls showed the majority of Greeks would get the shot against the coronavirus, which has claimed 12,890 lives in the country since the pandemic broke out last year. About 45% of the population of 11 million people are fully vaccinated.

The Brussels Times

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