Gavin Mortimer Gavin Mortimer

Is Macron losing control of France?

A bonfire at the Marseille carnival on 21 March (photo: Getty)

There may be a touch of the Monday blues for Emmanuel Macron this morning as he scans the headlines in France. A new poll reveals that vaccine scepticism in his country has reached record levels, thanks to his recent belittling of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Sixty-one per cent of those canvassed expressed their doubts about the vaccine, up 18 per cent from last month. Only 23 per cent said they had confidence in the AstraZeneca jab. In contrast, 75 per cent of British people have faith in the vaccine.

But if the French are increasingly reluctant to be vaccinated, they are determined to enjoy the arrival of spring – Covid restrictions or not. In Marseille yesterday around 6,500 people danced and partied at a street carnival, many of them wearing fancy dress. ‘The young have had enough of being confined,’ said 26-year-old Romain. ‘There are no frail elderly here, only the young.’

The demographic was more diverse in Annecy, where around 1,000 people gathered on Sunday on the shore of the town’s lake for a Freedom festival. The sentiment was the same as in Marseille. ‘No more masks, no more constraints,’ cried the crowd. One of those present told reporters he wanted to experience ‘the joy and love of others without fear of a virus’.

Police eventually broke up the carnival in Marseille in the early evening, arresting nine people, as the city’s mayor, Benoît Payan, raged on twitter: ‘I’m angry. The selfish attitude of some irresponsible people is unacceptable. Nothing justifies that we destroy the collective efforts to curb the virus.’ There was a similar response from the government.

This urban warfare is growing in frequency, audacity and ferocity

At least the rebellions in Marseille and Annecy were peaceful unlike what has been unfolding in many towns and cities across France in recent weeks. From Blois to Bordeaux, Verdun to Toulouse and Rennes to Lyon, rioting has scarred these towns and cities with police and firefighters bearing the brunt of the violence.

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