In news just in from the French island territory of Guadeloupe, our on the ground reporter, Teja Vanhalst, has confirmed there is still unrest as France stands firm in its efforts to enforce mandatory vaccinations for health care workers.
The island of 400,000 people has one of the lowest vaccination rates in France at 33% and is sending a powerful message to President Macron that they are not in favour of the forced inoculations.
Many nurses and medical staff rejected the vaccination, and their employment was recently ended. “These nurses worked extremely long hours during the Covid crisis and now they are being ‘shown the door’ because of their concerns about the vaccine,” said a local supporter of the nurses. The stood down workers receive no unemployment payments, adding to their frustrations.
Road blockades by protesters made travelling across the island nearly impossible. People couldn’t get to work while food and water supplies were also disrupted, leaving many stores empty. Firefighters reported several call outs prior to Christmas for an assortment of issues related to the protests.
France sent police special forces to the island to quell the unrest which had escalated into some rioting and looting.
While vaccine mandates sparked the demonstrations, this unrest also expresses the frustrations of many years of suffering, inequality, poverty and exclusion felt by the people, especially the youth and elderly, making the situation even more complicated.
In Pointe-a-Pitre, the island’s largest urban area, clashes left at least three people injured, including an 80-year-old woman hit by a bullet allegedly fired by police. A firefighter and police officer were also injured.
There were at least 38 people arrested for curfew violations during the protests and there are now moves afoot to have their charges dismissed.
The unions have called for continued protests against the forced mandates and previously removed road barricades are now being set up again.
In a territory with almost 70% unvaccinated, there remains a powerful push against the mandates imposed by President Macron.
On the neighbouring French overseas territory of Martinique, a general strike has been called, calling for an end to mandatory vaccination for health workers, wage rises and other social grievances.
AFIPN will continue to monitor this situation through our local reporter.