Health first, freedom second? How Covid is changing democracies





Paris (AFP) From a litany of lockdowns to mandatory mask-wearing and Covid passes to access entertainment and sporting venues, the pandemic has led to sweeping restrictions on civil liberties in some of the world's oldest democracies.


Among Western countries, European nations particularly have been quick to crimp basic freedoms in the name of fighting the virus.


French President Emmanuel Macron caused a furore this week by saying he wanted to "piss off" those who refuse to get vaccinated by "limiting as much as possible their access to activities in social life".


The remarks from the leader of a country that sees itself as a global beacon of liberty underscore the extent to which the pandemic has changed national priorities.


The United States has also taken aggressive steps, including closing its borders to most of the world for 20 months and making vaccinations mandatory for all federal employees and staff of big companies.


The Berlin-based rights watchdog Civil Liberties Union for Europe warned in a report last year that measures targeting the unvaccinated could "exacerbate existing inequalities".


"(They) may create a two-tier society where some people may enjoy an extensive set of freedoms and rights while others are excluded," the report said.


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