France delays vaccination mandate for health workers in riot-hit Caribbean islands

PARIS, November 26 (Reuters) – France has postponed the implementation of a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for health workers in Martinique and Guadeloupe after this measure sparked numerous protests in French territories during which police officers were injured and journalists attacked.

The two Caribbean islands have been hit by unrest over the past week after the French government imposed tougher measures to curb the spread of the virus.

Mandatory vaccinations for health workers, a measure already introduced in mainland France, had fueled resentment among the islands’ black majority population.

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The French Ministry of Health said in a statement after a government crisis meeting on Friday that it had decided to postpone to December 31 “the finalization of the implementation of the vaccine mandate” in Martinique and Guadeloupe .

He had put on unpaid leave of absence those who refused inoculation, but now says he will give those who have been suspended more time for one-on-one “dialogue” with their managers while continuing to be paid.

Some on the islands called the mandate back to the era of slavery in France, insisting they should be allowed to make their own health treatment choices.

The French government meeting came as riots in Martinique continued, a source close to the French foreign minister said.

“Last night was clearly more intense than the previous nights,” a local spokesperson for the French state told Reuters on Friday.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said authorities in Martinique and Guadeloupe made 10 arrests after shots were fired Thursday evening, injuring several people.

Journalists from French television, news agencies and photo agencies were assaulted Thursday evening, the Altice press group said in a statement, confirming earlier statements by the minister. A policeman was seriously injured and required surgery, local authorities said.

Prosecutors said masked protesters also attempted to set fire to the gate to the official residence of the prefect, the highest representative of the French central state there, but that no significant damage was caused.

In Guadeloupe, where protests began last week, there is a historic mistrust of the government’s handling of health crises after many people were systematically exposed to toxic pesticides used in banana plantations in the 1970s. .

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Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten, Sudip Kar-Gupta and Tassilio Hummel; edited by John Stonestreet, Mark Porter and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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