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Curbs protests in Lebanon, France, Germany

Opponents of pandemic restrictions and vaccine mandates have rallied in the streets of Lebanon, France, Germany and Austria.

Hundreds of people marched in Beirut on Saturday to protest measures imposed against the unvaccinated, saying individuals should have the right to decide whether to be inoculated or not.

Vaccination is not compulsory in Lebanon but in recent days authorities have cracked down on people who are not inoculated or don’t carry a negative PCR test.

Saturday’s protest by nearly 300 people in downtown Beirut came a day after the daily number of new coronavirus cases hit a record 7974.

The protest came days after authorities imposed fresh restrictions – including the requirement of a vaccination certificate or negative PCR test for entry into restaurants, hotels and similar venues.

As of Monday, civil servants must either be vaccinated or take regular PCR tests to be able to go to work.

Many civil servants cannot afford to pay for regular PCR tests, given Lebanon’s severe economic crisis currency crash.

“No to the dictatorship of vaccination,” read one banner carried by protesters.

Health Minister Firass Abiad criticised the protesters, saying more than 20,000 people were vaccinated on Saturday alone as part of a government campaign focusing on students and teachers.

Protesters also rallied in cities across France on Saturday, denouncing President Emmanuel Macron’s intent to “piss off” people refusing COVID-19 shots by tightening curbs on their civil liberties.

Macron said this week he wanted to irritate unvaccinated people by making their lives so complicated they would end up getting jabbed.

Unvaccinated people were irresponsible and unworthy of being considered citizens, he added.

In Paris, protesters retorted by adopting his slangy wording, chanting “We’ll piss you off”.

Others carried signs saying “No to the vaccine pass,” a reference to Macron’s legislative push to require proof of vaccination to enter venues such as cafes, bars and museums.

Protesters also rallied through the streets in Marseille, Nantes and Le Mans among other cities.

“(Macron’s remarks) were the last straw. We are not irresponsible,” said hospital administrator Virginie Houget, who has avoided a mandatory vaccine order for health workers because she caught COVID-19 late last year.

The protesters accuse Macron of trampling on their freedoms and treating citizens unequally.

He says freedoms carry responsibilities that include protecting the health of others.

France recorded more than 300,000 new coronavirus infections for the second time in a week on Friday.

Meanwhile, several thousand people demonstrated in German cities on Saturday against policies to contain the pandemic.

The largest event was held in Hamburg, where 16,000 people attended, according to police.

The organisers had initially expected 11,000 to turn out to the rally, held under the banner, “Enough! Hands off our children”.

The organisers called on the attendees to wear masks and to keep distance from each other, in line with the rules, although some failed to heed the call.

One participant wore a Star of David with the inscription “unvaccinated,” according to a police tweet.

Officers added that they were investigating for incitement.

Large events were also expected throughout the country, including in the cities of Magdeburg, Freiburg, Ansbach, Regensburg and Schwerin.

About 1600 people gathered in the northern city of Schwerin, police said, with 2000 expected, according to the organisers.

A banner at the head of the procession said “Parents and grandparents say !!!NO!!! to Covid-19 vaccinations for children!”.

Drums and trumpets accompanied the march.

In Berlin, one coronavirus demonstration took the form of a car-and-bike convoy.

Police counted more than 100 vehicles, 70 bikes and about 200 people overall.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said the arguments made by vaccination opponents and COVID-19 sceptics had lost all measure and focus.

“A small group is willing to wipe all scientific knowledge off the table and voluntarily enter a bubble of bogus truths,” he said, calling this a new and frightening development in post-war German history.

About 40,000 people protested in Vienna on Saturday against government measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic, including a planned vaccine mandate for the general public.

Police said the demonstration was largely peaceful.

However, officers did have to halt the march briefly.

Some demonstrators tried to break through the police barrier and some were arrested, according to the police.

More than 1000 officers were deployed at the protest.

Vaccination is set to become compulsory in Austria from next month.

Several similar large-scale protests have been held in the country in recent weeks over the issue.

with reporting from AP and DPA

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