Demonstrations against the health pass and other measures aimed at preventing the spread of the Coronavirus mobilised tens of thousands of protesters in France as well as Switzerland on Saturday.
In France, the Interior Ministry counted 171 protest actions involving over 40,000 demonstrators, while the activist collective, Le Nombre Jaune, later stated that, according to its tally, over 67,000 persons participated. Five persons were arrested, three of them in Paris. No members of the security forces were injured, Belga News Agency reports.
This was the 14th consecutive Saturday protest against the COVID-19 measures in France and, judging from Interior Ministry figures, participation has been dropping in recent weeks. On 25 September, 60,000 demonstrators had taken to the streets, according to the French authorities.
Participation figures on Saturday varied widely from city to city. In Paris, about 5,000 persons demonstrated in four different areas, according to the Interior Ministry. On the other hand, about 400 persons took part in Lyon’s street march, according to the Prefecture.
The health pass became compulsory in France on 21 July for all places hosting more than 50 persons. It was then extended to hospitals (except emergency departments), bars and restaurants. On 30 August, it became mandatory for the 1.8 million employees in regular contact with the public, then in late September, for children aged 12 to 17 years.
A bill extending the possible application of the health pass to 31 July was validated on Wednesday by the Cabinet of Ministers. The pass “will be lifted as soon as we can do so,” Government Spokesman Gabriel Attal said after the Cabinet meeting.
In Switzerland, where the health pass has been required since 13 September to enter a restaurant or bar, visit an exhibition, see a film or attend an indoor sporting event, thousands protested against it on Saturday in Lausanne, Baden and Rapperswil-Jona, while progressive groups staged a counter-demonstration in Berne. No clashes were reported.
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In the western city of Lausanne, between 800 and 1,000 persons took to the streets saying “No to the health pass and restrictions to our freedom.” The procession, which included a wide range of groups as well as families, marched to the city centre without incident. The demonstrators, who wore no facemasks, shouted “Freedom” between two whistles. Denouncing what they saw as mass surveillance, they waved placards bearing slogans such as “For your safety, you’ll no longer have any freedom.”
In the northern town of Rapperswil-Jona close to 3,000 persons marched to a parking lot next to the local skating rink, where speeches were delivered. The protest was organised by a group called Aktionsbündnis Urkantone (Alliance in action of the original cantons).
In Baden, another northern town, the demonstrators numbered around 1,500, according to the police, which said the protest was authorised and there was no violence. Most protesters wore no facemasks, a journalist from the Keystone-ATS agency reported.
In the federal capital, some 300 members of the newly created Alliance solidaire de Berne (Solidarity Alliance of Berne) gathered together under the slogan of “Solidarity to end the crisis –solidarity against the right” to send a message against the anti-pass demonstrations staged over the past month, which they see as bearing the mark of the extreme right.
Most of the participants wore masks.
That demonstration was not authorised. However, it was monitored by the police, who did not need to intervene.