French Protests Call for ‘Freedom’ Amid Government Vaccine Push

PARIS—Thousands marched across France on Saturday to protest against President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to force vaccination of health workers and require a COVID-19 free certificate to enter places such as bars, restaurants, and cinemas.

Macron this week announced sweeping measures to fight a rapid surge in coronavirus infections, which protesters say infringe the freedom of choice of those who do not want the vaccination.

The measures had already prompted demonstrations earlier this week, forcing police to use tear gas to disperse protesters.

“Everyone is sovereign in his own body. In no way does a president of the Republic have the right to decide on my individual health,” said one protester in Paris who identified herself as Chrystelle.

Marches, which also took place in France’s largest cities such as Marseille, Lyon, and Lille as well as many smaller centers, also included “yellow vest” protesters seeking to revive the anti-government movement curbed by coronavirus lockdowns.

Visiting a center in Anglet in southwestern France, Prime Minister Jean Castex said vaccination, which is not mandatory for the general public for now, is the only way to fight the virus.

“I hear the reluctance that arises but I think that we must at all costs convince all our fellow citizens to be vaccinated, it is the best way to cope to this health crisis,” Castex said.

Earlier on Saturday Castex’s office said France would reinforce restrictions on unvaccinated travelers from a series of countries to counter a rebound in COVID-19 infections, while opening its doors to those who have received all their shots.

“The Delta variant is here, we must not hide the truth, it is more contagious than the previous ones. We must adapt and face it,” Castex told reporters in southwestern France, referring to the variant first identified in India.

By Antone Paone and Sybille de La Hamaide