Protests against Covid-related restrictions in France, Greece and Australia

Far-right groups protest in Paris against vaccine pass for dining

Thousands of Australians participated in anti-lockdown protests in Sydney defying public health orders amidst a growing Covid-19 outbreak. Video: Reuters

 

Far-right activists and members of France’s yellow vest movement are holding protests against a Bill requiring everyone to have a special virus pass to enter restaurants and other venues and mandating Covid-19 vaccinations for all health care workers.

Legislators in France’s senate are debating the bill on Saturday after the lower house of parliament approved it on Friday.

French virus infections are spiking and hospital cases are also growing. The government is trying to speed up vaccinations to protect vulnerable populations and hospitals and avoid new lockdowns.

Most French adults are fully vaccinated and polls indicate a majority of French people support the new measures.

Protesters against the move marched through Paris in one of multiple demonstrations planned for Saturday.

A crowd gathered at Bastille plaza and marched through eastern Paris in one of several demonstrations which took place around France.

A protest against the compulsory vaccination for certain workers and the mandatory use of the health pass in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Photograph: Alain Jocard/AFP via Getty Images
A protest against the compulsory vaccination for certain workers and the mandatory use of the health pass in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Photograph: Alain Jocard/AFP via Getty Images

Thousands also joined a gathering across the Seine River from the Eiffel Tower, organised by a former top official in Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration party.

While most protesters were calm, tensions erupted on the margins of the Bastille march.

Riot police sprayed tear gas on marchers after someone threw a chair at an officer. Other projectiles could also be seen in a video of the incident.

Many marchers focused their anger on a French “health pass” that is required to enter museums, movie theatres and tourist sites.

The Bill under debate would expand the pass requirement to all restaurants and bars in France and some other venues.

To get the pass, people need to be fully vaccinated, have a recent negative test or have proof they recently recovered from the virus.

Legislators have debated the measure amid divisions over how far to go in imposing health passes or mandatory vaccinations.

Last weekend, more than 100,000 people protested around France against the measures.

They included far-right politicians and activists as well as some others targeting their ire at president Emmanuel Macron.

Remaining members of France’s yellow vest movement, largely from political extremes, are also using the virus Bill to try to renew their campaign.

The yellow vest movement started in 2018 as a broad uprising against perceived economic injustice and led to months of protests marked by violence between demonstrators and police, but subsided after the French government addressed many of the protesters’ concerns.

Greece

Greek police used teargas and water cannon to disperse people who had gathered in central Athens on Saturday to protest against mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations.

More than 4,000 people rallied outside the Greek parliament for a third time this month to oppose mandatory inoculations for some workers, such as healthcare and nursing staff.

A police official, who asked not to be named, said some protesters had thrown petrol bombs, prompting the police to respond with tear gas.

A rally on Wednesday was also marred by violence.

Recent polls showed the majority of Greeks would get the shot against Covid-19. Some 12,890 lives in Greece have been lost due to the virus since the pandemic broke out last year. About 45 per cent of a population of 11 million are fully vaccinated.

Greece has ordered the vaccination of healthcare and nursing home staff as cases have risen and urged school teachers to get the shot in time for the start of the school year in September.

Nearly 2,500 cases were reported on Saturday, bringing the total number of infected people to 474,366.

Australia

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Sydney and other Australian cities to protest lockdown restrictions amid another surge in coronavirus cases.

The unmasked participants marched from Sydney’s Victoria Park to Town Hall in the central business district, carrying signs calling for “freedom” and “the truth”.

There was a heavy police presence in Sydney, including mounted police and riot officers in response to what authorities said was unauthorised protest activity. Police confirmed a number of arrests had been made.

New South Wales (NSW) Police said it recognised and supported the rights of free speech and peaceful assembly, but the protest was a breach of public health orders.

A police statement said: “The priority for NSW Police is always the safety of the wider community.”

The protest comes as Covid-19 case numbers in the state reached another record with 163 new infections in the last 24 hours.

Greater Sydney has been locked down for the past four weeks, with residents only able to leave home with a reasonable excuse.

State health minister Brad Hazzard said: “We live in a democracy and normally I am certainly one who supports people’s rights to protest ... but at the present time we’ve got cases going through the roof and we have people thinking that’s OK to get out there and possibly be close to each other at a demonstration.”

In Melbourne, thousands of protesters without masks turned out downtown chanting “freedom”. Some of them lit flares as they gathered outside Victoria state’s Parliament House.

They held banners, including one that read: “This is not about a virus it’s about total government control of the people.”

A car protest rally is also planned in Adelaide, which is also under lockdown, with police warning they will make arrests over unlawful activity.

Vietnam

Vietnam has announced a 15-day lockdown in the capital Hanoi as a coronavirus surge spread from the southern Mekong Delta region.

The lockdown order, issued late on Friday night, bans the gathering of more than two people in public.

Only government offices, hospitals and essential businesses are allowed to stay open.

Earlier in the week, the city had suspended all outdoor activities and ordered non-essential businesses to close following an increase in cases.

On Friday, Hanoi reported 70 confirmed infections, the city’s highest, part of a record 7,295 cases in the country in the last 24 hours.

Nearly 5,000 of them are from Vietnam’s largest metropolis, southern Ho Chi Minh City, which has also extended its lockdown until August 1.

In the latest wave of Covid-19 since April, Vietnam has recorded over 83,000 infections and 335 deaths.

A meeting of the National Assembly scheduled to open in Hanoi on Tuesday with 499 delegates will go ahead but was shortened to 12 from the original 17 days.

The delegates have been vaccinated, are regularly tested for Covid-19 and are travelling in a bubble, and will be isolated at hotels, according to the National Assembly. – AP