Thousands protest against vaccine passport plans in France and Italy

Thousands of protesters across France and Italy angrily opposed plans for vaccinations passport on Saturday.

There were clashes on the streets of Paris amid moves to require the ‘cards’ for everyday activities like eating indoors at restaurants or going to sporting events and museums.

Demonstrators chanted ‘liberty’ in both countries, amid moves across Europe to encourage more people to get Covid jabs.

Leaders in the two nations see the cards – which are similar to the vaccination passports being discussed in the UK but dubbed the ‘green pass’ in Italy and ‘health pass’ in France – as necessary to persuade those hesitant people.

Italian premier Mario Draghi slammed the anti-vaccination message from some political leaders as like ‘an appeal to die’.

The looming requirement for the cards has seen vaccination requests boom in both countries.

But there is opposition among those who see it as a violation of their civil liberties or have concerns around the safety of vaccines.

One protester in Verona – who identified himself only as Simone because of concerns around his job – said: ‘We are creating a great inequality between citizens.

‘We will have first-class citizens, who can access public services, the theatre, social life, and second-class citizens, who cannot.’

One demonstrator in France walked with a likeness of President Emmanuel Macron’s head on a pike.

There were scuffles with riot police, and flares and fires were lit, but the protests were largely peaceful.  

Resistance to vaccinations and Covid rules have brought together an unlikely coalition of groups in France and Italy – ranging from far-right parties to anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists, to families with small children and economic justice campaigners.

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Many say vaccine pass requirements are a source of inequality that will further divide society, and make comparisons with authoritarian regimes from the past.

Countries across Europe have generally rolled out vaccines to a high proportion of their populations in recent months, with or without incentives.

No nation on the continent has made jabs mandatory, but there are moves to make vaccine passports compulsory.

Denmark pioneered the scheme with little resistance, while Belgium will require a vaccine certificate to attend outdoor events with more than 1,500 people by mid-August and indoor events by September.

Germany and the UK have so far resisted a blanket approach, while vaccinations are so popular in Spain that incentives are not deemed necessary.

The French health pass is required at museums, cinemas and tourist sites, and comes into effect for restaurants and trains on August 9.

To get it, people must be fully vaccinated, have a recent negative test, or proof they recently recovered from Covid-19.

Italy requires just one vaccine dose, a negative test result in the last 48 hours or proof of recovering from the virus in the last six months.

Its certificate applies to outdoor dining, cinemas, stadiums, museums and other gathering places from August 6.

Vaccine demand in Italy increased by as much as 200% in some regions after the government announced the green pass, according to the country’s special commissioner for vaccinations.

In France, nearly five million got a first dose and more than six million got a second dose in the two weeks after President Macron announced that the virus passes would be expanded to restaurants and many other public venues.

Before that, vaccination demand had been waning for weeks.

Italian and French businesses in Italy and France appear to be cautiously backing the passes – with the move in Denmark suggests compliance becomes more widespread over time.

Sune Helmgaard, who owns a restaurant in Copenhagen, explained: ‘The first couple of months weren’t good.’

In the spring, vaccination rates were still low and customers could not always get tested in time.

Now more than 80% of eligible Danes haved received at least one shot and more than 60% are fully vaccinated and Mr Helmgaard’s business is back to pre-pandemic levels.

He added: ‘People feel safer. So Danes are quite happy to show their pass.’

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