France expands COVID-19 health passport as protests against lockdown, vaccine mandates erupt worldwide

A protestor displays an anti-vax placard during a 'Unite For Freedom' march against COVID-19 vaccinations and government lockdown restrictions, in Trafalgar Square, central London, England, on May 29, 2021.
A protestor displays an anti-vax placard during a 'Unite For Freedom' march against COVID-19 vaccinations and government lockdown restrictions, in Trafalgar Square, central London, England, on May 29, 2021. | BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images

France's health passports went into effect Monday, just days after thousands took to the streets to protest a mandate that only allows the vaccinated or those who've tested negative for COVID-19 to go to shopping centers, restaurants or board public transportation. 

The country's health pass extension follows four weeks of protests that culminated in an estimated 250,000 joining demonstrations across the nation Saturday. It requires patrons of cafes and movie theaters that seat fewer than 50 people to show their double vaccination QR code or proof they've recovered from COVID-19 or tested negative for the virus within the last 48 hours. 

President Emmanuel Macron is reportedly hopeful that the government's extension of the health pass to require compliance at more venues will increase vaccinations among the French. The mandate is similar to what other European counties have implemented, such as Germany and Italy, according to France 24

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"The pass and the vaccination drive should help us avoid new curfews and lockdowns," Health Minister Olivier Véran was quoted as saying in the French daily Le Parisien.

Businesses and customers have been given a one-week grace period to comply with the new mandate. 

Anti-vaccine and anti-lockdown protests have been held in countries throughout Europe since the spring of 2020. 

In Australia, police have increased surveillance in Sydney, which is now in its sixth week of lockdown. The city has a population of more than 5 million and reported 343 new COVID-19 infections. 

During a recent anti-lockdown protest at the end of July, more than 1,300 police officers were deployed and made eight arrests and fined 250 people for violating stay-at-home orders, 9 News reported. 

Police had set up checkpoints throughout Sydney and checked over 70,000 vehicles for violations of travel limits. Police also formed a barrier around the city to prevent people from traveling to protests. These stricter measures were carried out even though the death toll attributed to COVID-19 was only at 14

Sydney's lockdown is expected to run through Aug. 28. The government says the stay-at-home orders and restrictions are contingent upon vaccination rates, according to New South Wales Health.

The health minister advised residents not to leave their homes unless necessary or to get vaccinated. 

German citizens have reacted similarly and have held several anti-lockdown protests demanding an end to the government's mandates. A Berlin court recently issued a ban on all anti-lockdown protests, citing concerns that they would lead to an increase of coronavirus infections from the delta variant, DW reported. 

Despite the court's ban of such demonstrations, thousands joined protests in Berlin where some 600 protestors were detained, Newsweek reported. 

In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced during a press conference on July 19 that the government planned to require full vaccinations before the public would be allowed to enter nightclubs or other venues where large crowds gather. 

Last week, the British government signed two multimillion-dollar passport contracts with Entrust and Akami Technologies as part of a “COVID-19 certification program,” Life Site reported. 

Johnson had previously said he opposed such passports. 

“Proof of a negative test will no longer be sufficient,” the prime minister said last month. 

New York City also announced last week that it will require proof of vaccination for individuals to participate in indoor activities, such as eating in restaurants and going to the gym or theater, making it the first U.S. city to do so. 

This vaccine policy will go into effect mid-September, CNET reported. 

"This is a miraculous place, literally full of wonders. And if you're vaccinated, all of that is going to open up to you. You'll have the key," New York City's Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "If you're unvaccinated, unfortunately, you will not be able to participate in many things." 

De Blasio said the goal of the vaccine mandate is to “stop the delta variant” and convince everyone to get vaccinated. 

Many elected officials in the U.S. have pushed back against such measures, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis who has banned vaccine passports in his state. 

"I think the question is, is we can either have a free society or we can have a biomedical security state," the Republican governor said during a press conference where he spoke out against the measure, ABC News reported. "I can tell ya — Florida, we're a free state."

Boston’s Acting Mayor Kim Janey, a Democrat, also spoke out against NYC’s vaccine mandate, likening vaccine passports to slavery. 

“There's a long history in this country of people needing to show their papers," she told ABC News' Boston affiliate WCVB last Tuesday. "During slavery, post-slavery, as recent as you know, what immigrant population has to go through here. … Here we want to make sure that we are not doing anything that would further create a barrier for residents of Boston or disproportionally impact BIPOC [black, indigenous and people of color] communities."

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