A French rule mandating COVID-19 vaccination for certain occupational groups went into effect on Wednesday.
Hospital and nursing staff, ambulance drivers, firefighters, gendarmerie officers, civil defense workers, private doctors, and people caring for the elderly or infirm in their homes must be able to prove that they have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Those who fail to comply could face suspension without pay.
French President Emmanuel Macron hadissued an ultimatum two months ago, but tens of thousands of these frontline workers remain unvaccinated.
Many health workers joined opponents of a new coronavirus "health pass" — a document for entry to restaurants, cafes, and museums — in defiance.
"Whether we're vaccinated or not, we're against making it compulsory," Valerie, a 57-year-old nursing assistant, told the AFP news agency.
"We are raising the alarm … if you insist on implementing this measure your beds will be closed, thus reducing chances [of survival] for a number of patients,'' said Christophe Prudhomme, emergency room doctor and CGT union member.
With about 300,000 workers still unvaccinated, hospitals fear the new rule will result in severe staff shortages, further adding to their strain.
Here's the latest coronavirus news from around the world
China imposed local lockdowns and expanded mass testing as the latest outbreak in its Fujian province continued to spread.
The province reported new local infections for the fifth consecutive day, with 50 cases on Wednesday. The cities of the Xiamen and Quanzhou have restricted travel as the highly contagious delta variant spreads through the region.
Sydney's nightly curfew will end on Wednesday night, officials said as COVID-19 vaccinations reach new levels. Officials lifted the curfew imposed on more than 2 million people but stopped short of easing lockdown restrictions.
According to officials of New South Wales, of which Sydney is the capital, the first dose vaccinations reached 80% in the state, while the double dose rate stands at 48%.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned the European Union of a "pandemic of the unvaccinated" in her State of the Union address on Wednesday.
"Let's do everything possible (so) that this does not turn into a pandemic of the unvaccinated," she told the European lawmakers.
Von der Leyen also vowed to donate another 200 million COVID-19 vaccine jabs to non-EU countries.
"We have already committed to sharing 250 million doses of vaccine. I can announce today that our mission will add a new donation of another 200 million doses until the middle of next year," she said.
Germany reported 12,455 new cases on Wednesday and 83 additional deaths, according to the Robert Koch Institute of Infectious disease. The latest figures take the total infection to 4,101,931 and fatalities to 92,769.
The Netherlands will end the mandatory 1.5-meter social distancing rule starting September 25, after 18 months, Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced.
The country will, however, introduce a "corona pass" that people will have to carry, showing proof of vaccination to go to bars, restaurants, clubs, or cultural events.
"This is not the day when everything will be as it was before the coronavirus, there are still too many infections and too many people are still being admitted to hospitals for that," Rutte said.
The African Union has urged vaccine producers and manufacturing nations to allow the continent to buy COVID-19 shots, rather than wait for donor-funded doses to arrive.
The AU wants nations to lift export bans as wealthy nations continue to have the majority of the available doses.
"Vaccine sharing is good. But we shouldn't have to be relying on vaccine sharing," Strive Masiyiwa, the AU's COVID-19 special envoy. "We want to buy from those same manufacturers."
He added that "those manufacturers know very well they never gave us proper access."
Zimbabwe banned unvaccinated people from attending church services, the latest measure to boost the uptake of the COVID-19 vaccines.
"With regards to churches, Cabinet has resolved that only vaccinated congregants can attend."
adi/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)