Protests hit Athens and Paris over new coronavirus restrictions, vaccine mandates
July 15, 2021|Updated today at 9:02 a.m. EDT
In Paris, demonstrators clashed with police after French President Emmanuel Macron announced sweeping measures to fight the pandemic earlier this week. He mandated vaccinations for all health-care workers and said new rules would require unvaccinated people to show negative coronavirus tests before entering bars, restaurants and other entertainment venues.
Also this week, Greek authorities said all medical workers would need to be immunized or face penalties, and only vaccinated individuals would be allowed to use public indoor spaces until Aug. 31, through the height of Greece’s tourism season. The policies prompted demonstrations in Athens, where thousands gathered outside parliament Wednesday under heavy police presence, Reuters reported.
Here are some significant developments:
The unrest in France and Greece has underscored the difficulty that some leaders face in weighing public health during a pandemic against policies that appear to encroach [only “appear” to encroach?] on individual freedom. The struggle has been exacerbated by the recent spread of more contagious variants of the virus, including the delta variant, which the World Health Organization says is on track to become dominant around the globe. [Delta is the mildest, so the best variant to get to obtain durable immunity. Then treat early.]
In Russia, for example, vaccine mandates and digital health passes for restaurants and bars in Moscow and other cities have been deeply unpopular. Last month, authorities in the capital said 60 percent of public-facing employees — from teachers to taxi drivers to salespeople — must be fully vaccinated by Aug. 15.
Moscow’s Deputy Mayor Anastasia Rakova said Wednesday that the majority of medical workers, teachers and social workers in the city were inoculated. But in a recent poll by the independent Levada Center, 54 percent of Russians said they were not ready to get one of the locally made shots.
“It’s totally arbitrary and wholly undemocratic,” on protesters in Paris, who identified himself only as Jean-Louis, told Reuters of the French restrictions Wednesday.
While France struggles with widespread vaccine hesitancy, Macron’s announcement has also spurred hundreds of thousands of people to book immunization appointments in recent days.
In Athens, protesters were particularly incensed by government plans to open vaccinations to teenagers, according to media reports, calling the vaccine “poison” and chanting, “Hands off our kids!”
But most Greek residents have either been vaccinated or plan to be in the near future, according to a Pulse survey on behalf of Skai TV. According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, 48 percent of adults in Greece have been fully immunized, with 59 percent having received at least one dose.