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France, Australia erupt in protests over COVID-19 restrictions

By Jake Thomas
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France, Australia erupt in protests over COVID-19 restrictions
A protester holds a poster reading "Free France" during a demonstration held by right-wing party Les Patriotes against the COVID-19 sanitary pass on Saturday in Paris. Photo by Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA-EFE

Aug. 21 (UPI) -- As the Delta variant of the coronavirus continues its rapid spread, protesters took to the streets in France and Australia on Saturday to push back against pandemic restrictions.

France saw more than 200 demonstrations throughout the country, Le Parisien reported. This is the sixth weekend of protests in France that have brought out hundreds of thousands in towns and cities targeting COVID-19 health passes that allow holders to go shopping, dine out and attend sporting events.

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Paris, the country's largest city, saw between 12,000 and 20,000 who protested without incident. The protests attracted vaccine skeptics and included a rally organized by Florian Philippot, leader of the nationalist Patriots political party.

Australia saw thousands of protesters defy lockdown orders during more confrontational demonstrations in the country's largest country's cities, CNN reported.

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Following a lockdown order for the entire state of Victoria, hundreds of unmasked protesters marched through the city's streets before a confrontation with police that left six officers hospitalized, according to CNN. Police responded with pepper balls and pepper spray and issued fines to hundreds for breaching health ordinance, according to police sources.

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Sydney, the country's largest city, also saw protests against lockdown orders put in place earlier this month. Police arrested dozens and issued more than 250 fines to people for violating public health orders, Australia's ABC News reported.

The protest came a day after New South Wales, the country's most populous state, saw a record 825 infections. Premier Gladys Berejiklian instructed citizens to stay calm and accept that the highly infectious Delta variant of the virus had arrived, ABC News reported.

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Both countries have seen increases in COVID-19 cases over the summer, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. France has recorded 644,846 cases over the last 28 days. Australia has recorded 10,366 during the same time period.

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