Sunday

5th Feb 2023

France braced for 'anti-vax, anti-science, anti-state' protests

  • Paris: French minister wrote an open letter to reassure health workers (Photo: Joe Price/Flickr)

France is preparing for a fifth weekend of anti-vaccine protests after previous ones left a trail of vandalism and fear.

"I will not accept any violence, intimidation, attack on their physical integrity or their professional tools," French health minister Olivier Véran wrote to health workers on Thursday (13 August).

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"In recent weeks ... several of our professionals have been cowardly attacked for doing their job," he said.

"To attack our health professionals is to attack the nation," Véran added.

He spoke out after some 237,000 people protested against French coronavirus measures, including its 'green pass' vaccination certificate, last weekend.

The figure was higher than the 200,000 who protested in late July and the crowds caused damage along the way.

The protesters vandalised 22 health sites, including five test centres, 15 vaccination centres, and a laboratory in the past few weeks, the French health ministry said.

Some of the vandalism included swastikas and Nazi slurs.

The French National Order of Pharmacists has also condemned a recent "outburst of violence" against its members.

"They have been taken to task, been insulted, had their [vaccine] tents vandalised, and have had their [pharmacies] burned down," it said.

The number of malcontents might climb higher this weekend because France, last Monday, forced people to have a green pass to enter restaurants and cafes and to use high-speed trains.

"We're going to enforce massive controls," French transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said of the new rules.

But even if protests swell, then speaking earlier this week, Véran voiced little sympathy for the anti-vaccination movement.

He described them as "anti-vax, anti-science, and anti-state" in an interview with French newspaper Le Parisien.

"Whatever the number of protesters, it will still be lower than the number of French who at the very same time are getting vaccinated ... I'm prepared to listen to their fears and do everything to reassure them, but there comes a point when enough is enough," Véran said.

Some 45 million French people have had one or more jabs by now, adding up to 80 percent of the French adult population, he said.

And France was vaccinating some 300,000 people a day, Véran noted.

France is one of 13 EU states rolling out green-pass restrictions, with Italy imposing one of Europe's most severe regimes on tourists last weekend.

Some 80,000 people protested against the measures in Italy.

A man died and police made 600 arrests when violence broke out at anti-vaccination rally in Germany at the start of August.

German society has also been shocked by revelations that a nurse in the Friesland region might have injected over 8,000 patients with salt water instead of coronavirus vaccines.

The 40-year old woman had aired vaccine-sceptical views on social media.

But her lawyers said she did it to far fewer people and that she had no political motive, but was trying to save her job after accidentally breaking genuine vaccine phials.

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