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schools The French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe was locked down on Monday and the French president warned of a “very explosive” situation in the region after protests against COVID-19 regulations and vaccinations descended on days of rioting and looting.

France’s central government sent police special forces to try to restore order to the former colony, after emergency workers said they were unable to reach an angry, crowded neighborhood.

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“We have many patients,” tweeted Patrick Portecop, head of the regional emergency service, in the blocked area of ​​La Boucan. “We are powerless.”

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Guadeloupe’s education department on Monday ordered the closure of schools of all ages “in view of the situation” and asked parents to keep their children at home.

Demonstrations in Guadeloupe, an overseas French department of about 400,000 people, erupted over France’s mandatory vaccinations for health care workers and required COVID-19 health passes to enter restaurants and many other places across France. As they turned into riots, an 80-year-old woman was shot on her balcony and at least two others were injured, according to local officials.

While mainland France has seen similar protests, protesters in Guadeloupe are also angry at deep-seated economic, social and racial inequality, and have in recent days called for general wage increases, higher unemployment benefits and the recruitment of more teachers. expanded its demands.

Guadeloupe’s COVID-19 vaccination rate is 33%, compared to 75% nationwide, which officials attribute to misinformation about vaccines shared online. There is also mistrust of central officials stemming from past health scandals.

An overturned car is pictured in the street of Le Gosier on the island of Guadeloupe on Sunday, November 21, 2021.

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Numbness, sadness, abandonment, indifference – the mood changes from street to street at Pointe-ए-Pitre. Police are clearing major roads which have made movement difficult for several days. Smoke rises from garbage burning and piles of electrical equipment. Nails, broken glass and tree trunks lay on the streets, as if a woman was walking through the burnt ruins of her house.

Outside the main hospital, striking workers have set up a camp against mandatory vaccinations for health workers, and sympathizers bring food.

Emily holds her burnt passport in her burnt home after the riots in Pointe-ए-Pitre on the island of Guadeloupe, Sunday, November 21, 2021.

The president of Guadeloupe, Arya Chalas, condemned the looting: “We cannot destroy what we have built together.” But he noted that the riots are “about more than compulsory vaccination,” and lamented on regional television that the central government did not respond to requests for funding “as quickly as they sent to law enforcement” to suppress the riots. .

“There is a situation that is very explosive, has a very local context. There are tensions that we know are historic,” French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday.

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