Situation in Guadeloupe “very …

(Proofreading with Macron’s comments)

PARIS, November 22 (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that protests against COVID-19-related restrictions in the French overseas region of Guadeloupe had created a “very explosive” situation.

Macron spoke with reporters ahead of a meeting between the French prime minister and Caribbean island lawmakers scheduled for later Monday.

“We must explain, explain, explain and convince, convince, convince, because we must not play with people’s health,” Macron said.

He described the situation in Guadeloupe as “very explosive, which has a very local context and tensions that we know, which are historical”.

Violence erupted last week after walkouts organized by unions in the territory to challenge local restrictions linked to COVID-19 such as compulsory vaccination of health workers.

Local police arrested at least 38 people and dozens of shops were looted. French media reported on Sunday that rioters broke into a weapons depot in the coastal town of Pointe-à-Pitre and took guns.

“We just don’t know how far it will go again,” the mayor of Point-à-Pitre told France Info radio station on Monday.

Guadeloupe has already been hit by violent protests, but he said there were “big concerns” on the island now because the rioters had guns.

Over the weekend, France announced that it would send special police forces to restore order in French overseas territory. The local school authority said on Sunday that all schools in Guadeloupe would be closed on Monday.

A sign that the unrest could spread to other French overseas territories in the Caribbean, unions called for a general strike on the island of Martinique from Monday, French media reported. (Reporting by Tassilo Hummel; Editing by Christian Lowe)

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