By Geert De Clercq
PARIS (Reuters) -Vandals have attacked more than 20 vaccination centres and other health facilities, daubing some with Nazi-themed slogans, as the French government steps up its COVID-19 vaccination drive.
Anger has been fueled by the introduction of a health pass showing proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test which is now mandatory for entering restaurants, trains and other public places.
Over the past four weekends protesters have marched against the health pass, saying it restricts individual freedom.
Since July 12, a total of 22 health facilities have been have attacked defaced, including 15 vaccination centers, five COVID-19 test centers and one medical lab, an interior ministry official told Reuters on Wednesday.
Across the country, vaccination centres and outdoor testing facilities at pharmacies have been tagged with swastikas and graffiti such as “collaborator”, “Nazi” and “genocide”.
The same slogans have also been seen at some of the demonstrations against the health passes.
In the Loire valley town of Neuille-Pont-Pierre last month Stars of David – similar to those Jews were forced to wear by the Nazis – were painted on vaccination centre signs.
“We are cleaning off these horrors, this is odious. Other centres have also been hit by these racist and cowardly attacks,” Neuille-Pont-Pierre mayor Michel Jollivet said on BFM television.
In Lans-en-Vercors, southeast France, anti-vaccine graffiti were painted on a community hall that housed a vaccine centre and fire hoses were opened, flooding the facility, local newspaper Le Dauphine reported.
“Wrecking a vaccination centre speaks volumes about the motives of the perpetrators, who will be tracked down,” Health Minister Olivier Veran said in a tweet.
In Urrugne, in the Pyrenees, the tent of a temporary vaccination centre was set on fire, while in Audincourt, eastern France, the power supply to a vaccination centre was cut off, endangering vaccine doses in fridges.
“There is no doubt that the vaccination centre was targeted,” Audincourt’s mayor Martial Bourquin told L’Express.
On Sunday, staff at a Toulouse vaccination centre found a note saying “One day, all this will blow up”, local media reported.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said perpetrators will be severely punished but so far no major arrests have been made.
France has registered more than 112,000 COVID-19 deaths and a total of 6.33 million cases.
Following a slowdown in infections after France’s third lockdown this spring, the more infectious Delta variant has led to spike in new cases, now at more than 22,000 per day on average.
(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Giles Elgood and Angus MacSwan)