Why are the Covid protests regaining momentum?

In France, 160,000 people demonstrated against new coronavirus restrictions on the weekend, and there were also large demonstrations in Italy and Greece. Athens and Paris have imposed compulsory vaccination in the health sector, while in Italy cinemas and restaurants and in France shopping centres and public transport are to be open only to those who have been vaccinated or tested. But the protests are not so much about concrete measures, says Europe's press.

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Duma (BG) /

Understandable but wrong

Duma views the protests against Covid vaccinations in several European countries with mixed feelings:

“On the one hand the protesters' anger is justified. Governments underestimated the virus last year. Now they want to correct the mistake, but the people have lost patience. Neither the measures nor the vaccines have proved effective enough, even if they have limited the spread of the pandemic to some extent. On the other hand the protesters' anger is not justified because the threat still exists. The memory of the more than four million people who have died from Covid-19 is still fresh.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

The right fishing for votes

In Corriere della Sera, Political scientist Angelo Panebianco criticises Italy's right-wing parties for supporting the protests :

“The most likely reason is that they have found an interesting reservoir of votes among that - unfortunately quite large, as it would seem - section of our fellow citizens who are susceptible to one conspiracy theory or another. ... Those who court these people contribute to weakening the premises on which a free society is based. Conspiracy theories and the rejection of science upset the mechanisms of such a society, which lives on delicate balances, namely on trust in the competence of those who know more than we do. And it lives on the need to combine knowledge and democratic representation.”

Le Point (FR) /

Vaccination debate only a symptom of the crisis

The dispute over vaccination policy is an expression of deep-seated social tensions, former diplomat Gérard Araud notes in Le Point:

“Whatever one thinks of Covid, it highlights the need to manage the crisis that is making our democracies less functionable. As conceivable solutions we have on the one hand a direct and deliberate clash between populists and their opponents, and on the other hand the search for answers to the fears and demands of part of our populations. Is it not possible to find a way in Washington, London, Paris and elsewhere that achieves the latter without denying the values on which our liberal democracy is based? ... The future of our societies depends on this question. The absurd debate about vaccinations is only a symptom, but not the disease.”

L'Opinion (FR) /

Now is not the time to waver

In parallel with the new wave of protests, France has reached the threshold of 60 percent of vaccinated adults. Reason enough for Paris to stick to its strategy, L'Opinion believes:

“This threshold was the percentage targeted by doctors to achieve herd immunity and be able to hope for the gradual disappearance of SARS-CoV-2 before the variants reshuffled the cards. Now it is a kind of stage victory. ... Fortunately, the race against the mutants depends less on the tens of thousands on the streets than on the millions of French people who have not yet received a vaccination for logistical rather than ideological reasons. ... The strategy is working, but now is not the time to waver.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

Transparency to convince the citizens

Taking the citizens' doubts seriously and eliminating them with honest communication is the only alternative, says La Vanguardia:

“First, we need to restore the basis of trust between the government and the governed. States and scientists need to do a much better job of explaining how vaccines are made and how they work. To convince the sceptics, they need to be more transparent and understanding. Protecting patents and keeping the contracts with the pharmaceutical companies under wraps, as has been done so far, is not helping: on the contrary, it is fuelling the conspiracy theories. We urgently need to change the narrative.”