80-Year-Old Bystander Injured During Riots Over COVID Vax Pass on Caribbean Island

An 80-year-old woman was hit by a bullet during riots on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe after France announced new COVID-19 rules and vaccination requirements, the Associated Press reported.

Multiple days of protests, rioting and looting erupted in Guadeloupe, which has a population of about 400,000 people, after France announced mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for health care workers and the COVID-19 health pass, required to enter restaurants among other venues.

During the riots, the woman was hit by a bullet while on her balcony. At least two others have been injured, according to local authorities.

France's central government sent in police special forces to try to restore order, as emergency workers said they were unable to reach neighborhoods barricaded by angry crowds. The prefect of Guadeloupe said in a statement that 11 people were arrested by police overnight Sunday into Monday.

Guadeloupe's education department ordered schools closed for all ages Monday "taking into account the situation," and asked parents to keep their children at home.

Heather care workers striking against the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination set up a camp outside the main hospital, and sympathizers brought food.

Guadeloupe's COVID-19 vaccination rate is 33 percent, compared to 75 percent nationwide in France, which authorities blame on false information about vaccines shared online. There is also distrust toward central authorities stemming from past health scandals.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Guadeloupe Island, Caribbean, Riot, COVID-19
Reporters work by a charred shop and building in a street in Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe, on November 21, 2021. French authorities are sending police special forces to the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, a French territory, as protests over COVID-19 restrictions erupted into rioting. In Pointe-a-Pitre, the island's largest urban area, clashes left three people injured, including an 80-year-old woman who was hit by a bullet while on her balcony. A firefighter and a police officer were also injured and several shops were looted there and in other towns. Elodie Soupama/AP Photo

A statement said some patients who need to receive kidney dialysis treatment couldn't get access to a hospital because of the riots and "are now in danger."

"We have several patients" in the blockaded area of La Boucan, tweeted Patrick Portecop, head of the regional emergency service. "We are powerless."

Stupefaction, sorrow, resignation, indifference—the mood in Pointe-a-Pitre changes from street to street. Police are clearing major thoroughfares of road blockades that have made movement difficult for days. Smoke wafts up from heaps of burning garbage and electrical equipment. Nails, broken glass and tree trunks litter the streets, as a woman rummaged through the charred remains of her home.

While mainland France has seen similar protests, demonstrators in Guadeloupe are also angry over deep-seated economic, social and racial inequality, and expanded their demands in recent days to include a general salary increase, higher unemployment benefits and the hiring of more teachers.

Guadeloupe's president, Ary Chalus, decried the looting: "We cannot destroy what we built together." But he noted that the riots are "about more than mandatory vaccination," and lamented on regional television that the central government hasn't responded to requests for economic support "as fast as they sent in law enforcement" to quell the rioting.

"There is a situation that is very explosive, there is a very local context. There are tensions that we know about that are historic," French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday.

He urged efforts to convince people "that the vaccine is the best protection, and to not cede to lies or manipulation....Public order must be maintained. Guadeloupe has the right to calm."

Le Gosier, Guadeloupe Island, Charred Car, Riot
An overturned car in a street in Le Gosier, Guadeloupe, on November 21, 2021. French authorities are sending police special forces to the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe as protests over COVID-19 restrictions erupted into rioting. The protests have been called for by trade unions to denounce the COVID-19 health pass that is required to access restaurants and cafes, cultural venues, sport arenas and long-distance travel. Elodie Soupama/AP Photo