Health Pass-ifists and Protestors
Saturday while I was sunbathing on the beach and watching a Jack Russell Terrier chase a ball thrown into the water or into the air, catch it with amazing agility in his mouth and bring it back to whomever had tossed it, even if a stranger…I heard the rumble and horns of a demonstration along the Promenade des Anglais. I wanted to run to see it, but running on the “galets” (the Nice beach pebbles) is not something one aspires to do (unless you’re three years-old and have feet like rubber balls), so instead I grabbed my styrofoam floating noodle and fled for the waves. From the rocking of the cool aqua water, I could hear the “manif” permeate the summer air.
More than 6,500 demonstrators took to the streets of Nice to denounce the new health pass and the vaccination obligations. Starting off at Place Garibaldi, the demonstrators worked their way to the Promenade des Anglais while another gathering had already formed on Place Masséna. Among them were about 30 “pompiers” (firefighters) from the region who are among the professionals concerned by the vaccination obligation deadline of September 15th, not at all ready to receive an anti-covid injection.
Protesters met in Antibes, as well, demanding freedom and denouncing the government health measures which they believe are dividing the population. The estimate is that at least 38,000 people demonstrated on Saturday in Southeast France against mandatory vaccination, the generalization of the health pass and the government’s actions. The demonstrations had brought together a total of 161,000 people all over France, including 11,000 in Paris. In Montpellier, the demonstration brought together 10,000 people, according to the latest report from the prefecture.
The protests come as a result of the French parliament approving a law requiring a Covid health pass in order to access restaurants, bars, trains and planes from the beginning of this month. Up till now, all venues accommodating more than 50 people require proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid-19 test, including museums, cinemas and swimming pools. This new regulation requires special passes for all restaurants (excluding terraces), shopping malls, hospitals and retirement homes, domestic travel (except for public transit such as the Métro, RER, buses and tramways) and mandating vaccinations for all health workers to be vaccinated no later than September 15th or they risk losing their jobs. For the moment, the health pass applies to adults, but as of September 30th, 12 years-old and older will be obligated as well.
To get the pass, you must have proof of being fully vaccinated, or recently tested negative, or recently recovered from the virus. For now, they’ve set their sights on November 15th as an end date for the requirements, depending on the status of the virus. It’s all scheduled to start August 9th…if it fully passes.
Discussing the politics of the pandemic with friends and family is worse than the four years we had of discussing the politics of Donald Trump. The divisiveness is maddening. I’m both fascinated and fed up by it. I want it to go away, not just the virus, but the fear associated with it. I am nowhere near as frightened by the virus itself as by the fears it creates and decisions we make based on those fears.
I completely understand the viewpoint of the protestors. While I’ve been vaccinated and did so because I assessed that the risk of the vaccine itself is outweighed by the risk of the virus, I’m not quick to be in favor of such government control to the point of forcing the vaccination upon someone who doesn’t want to put it in their body. Asking for proof of a negative test is far different than forcing someone to be injected and if they don’t comply, risk losing their job and their livelihood.
I also don’t see how they are going to police this in the way they imagine, by turning restaurateurs, shopkeepers and the like into the long arm of the law. As I sit in a café in sunny Nice, surrounded by tourists enjoying being in the open and fresh air without a mask, I ponder how on earth they expect to “card” every diner who decides to sit inside instead. And I know that even those given the responsibility for reading the QR code on a smart phone or a certificate on paper won’t really look that closely at the details in the interest of saving time to process everyone, or let things slide for their own fear of having to reject someone!
I also am concerned for the businesses that have finally come back to life and then will have to deal with yet another restriction that hinders their own healthy economy. Shouldn’t they have a choice to accept or reject the health pass, as long as it’s posted so those who patronize them have a choice, too? And meanwhile, we’re being divided once again, this time between the vaccinated and the non-vaccinated, the pro-government intervention and those against it.
Don’t assume that the protestors are right wing or idiots. Au contraire! In fact, the Senate vote, dominated by Les Républicains, the right-wing opposition, is who voted 199 to 123 for the bill which provided for these compulsory vaccinations and extension of the health pass. It’s the right side of politics that is running that show.
From what I see, the protestors are mostly the young who don’t have the same fears as those of us who are older or have underlying health issues that raise the odds of getting the virus. They have a more philosophical and perhaps idealistic view of how they want their lives to be…and quite honestly, thank goodness for that. We need our youth to pave the way for a better way of living, and in this case, that ideal has to do with the infringement of civil liberties and basic rights.
Call me an idealist, or a libertarian or an idiot like the protestors, but for whatever reason, I don’t harbor fear of the virus. I just deal with it as I would any danger—like crossing a busy street and looking both ways. I do what I have to do to reduce my own risk. It’s true that if I wasn’t so confident in my own good health, I might not be so bold. Instead, I just wouldn’t take the risk of being out and about with people I don’t know and I’d be sure to be vaccinated to reduce my own risk of catching the virus.
Yes, I know your argument. Those un-vaccinated are seen by and large as the perpetrators of the virus and risking the lives of others. The truth is they risk their own lives much more than the lives of those who have been vaccinated. So, get vaccinated if you want. That’s your choice. Either way, it would be your choice and not that of the government’s.
I went back to the beach on Sunday to catch some rays, as these few hours in the sun at the surf is what I do to make the most out of this summer, given the situation with Covid-19 and our busy schedules with clients. Being on the beach watching the shenanigans that go on there with tourists from all over the world is most amusing and where it feels as if Covid-19 doesn’t exist at all.
Sunday it was very windy. The waves were tremendous, preventing most people from entering the water at all (as it did me). As the spray came closer to those of us close to the water’s edge, I had to keep moving my chair back lest I get soaked. In light of it all, I forgot about the Delta variant, the new regulations and the protests. I tuned into some romantic Spanish guitar on Spotify, opened David Downie’s new book on my Kindle app, Red Riviera, to read about murder on the Italian Riviera and thought about how we will have to find our havens, like this beach, where we can feel free and safe…until they decide you can’t go to the beach, either, without the vaccine!
Now, that’s when I get off my chair at the beach to protest, too!
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group®
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