France bans gatherings of more than 100 people as coronavirus death toll rises

The French Prime Minister on Friday said all gatherings of more than 100 people were now banned as the government battles to stem the spread of coronavirus across the country. On Friday the health chiefs said the death toll had risen to 79.

France bans gatherings of more than 100 people as coronavirus death toll rises
France's PM Edouard Philippe. Photo: AFP

France's Health Minister Olivier Veran announced on Friday that the death toll linked to coronavirus had risen by 18 in the previous 24 hours to 79 in total.

He added that 154 patients were in a serious condition.

“The spread of the virus across our territory is accelerating, especially in certain regions,” Veran said.

He urged the public to limit contact and travel and to wash hands regularly.

“Respect social distancing, acknowledge someone rather than greet them physically, keep a metre distance and limit non-essential travel as well visits to the most vulnerable,” he said.

Earlier Prime Minister Edouard Philippe justified the measure to ban gatherings saying the aim was to delay as much as possible the spike of the coronavirus epidemic.

“It's because we are at the beginning of the acceleration that we take measures to slow it down,” Philippe said.

“I'm not saying there will not be others (measures)”.

“Our aim is to postpone the spike for a long as possible, and we have hope.”

“We want to keep French people healthy, even if it will have grave consequences for theatres and cinemas,” the PM said.

The move comes a day after President Emmanuel Macron announced that all schools would close on Monday March 16th “until further notice”.

France has currently seen 79 people die from the coronavirus, which has spread out to 3,661 confirmed cases.

You can find the latest information on the coronavirus situation in France here.

The government had already banned all gatherings of 1,000 people, which had huge implications for the country. Concerts, sports events and other shows were canceled over the past week.

In the 10 'cluster' zones – where the majority of coronavirus cases have been diagnosed – local authorities had already issued stringent restrictions on public gatherings.

The cluster zones are in the Oise département to the north of Paris, Mulhouse in Haut-Rhin near the German border, two areas of Haute-Savoie near the Swiss border, Morbihan in Brittany, Calvados in Normany, Aude in southern France, the entire island of Corsica and parts of the southern city of Montpellier.

READ ALSO: MAP – The regions of France with the most coronavirus cases

A tenth cluster was a tour group that had travelled to Egypt, with 13 people testing positive for the virus.

The PM's announcement meant that the whole country was now largely following similar rules, as the government effectuated a push to contain the coronavirus spread once and for all.

On Thursday evening, Macron asked everyone over 70 to stay inside and limit their social interaction as much as possible.

The president also asked everyone who could to work from home (télétravail), promising the country's businesses that the state would bear the brunt of the financial burden of having people stay home.

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Reader Question: Can I get a third Covid booster shot in France?

As France launches its autumn vaccine campaign, almost half of those eligible for the second booster jab in France have already received it. This has left some wondering whether they could qualify for a third booster, using the new dual-strain vaccines.

Reader Question: Can I get a third Covid booster shot in France?

Question: I’m in my 70s and I had my second booster back in the summer but now I see that the new dual-strain vaccines are available – should I be getting an extra booster with the new type of vaccine?

French health authorities launched the autumn booster campaign on October 3rd includes newly authorised dual-strain vaccines – such as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine adapted to BA.1, the Moderna vaccine adapted to BA.1, and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine adapted to BA.4/5 – which are designed to combat the Omicron variant.

It will be followed by the seasonal flu vaccination campaign in mid October.

READ MORE: When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters this autumn in France

In France, about 6.3 million people have received a second booster dose, “or 41 percent of the eligible population,” said the Directorate General of Health (DGS) to Ouest France.

Currently only those in high risk groups are eligible for a second booster shot, including pregnant women, the elderly those with medical conditions or carers – find the full list here.

As almost half of the eligible population have already received a fourth vaccine, many are wondering whether they will be eligible for a fifth (or third booster) in order to access the new dual-strain vaccine.  

According to Virginie, a representative from HAS – France’s health authority – the organisation “no longer thinks in terms of doses for high-risk people and immunocompromised patients.”

Specifically, the HAS recommends that a new injection be given – and if possible one of the dual-strain vaccines – “regardless of the number of injections received up to now”.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Who qualifies for a second Covid vaccine booster in France?

However, French health authorities specified that the additional booster should “respect the minimum recommended time between two doses.”

“This depends based on your profile – for people aged 80 and over, residents of nursing homes or long-term care units (USLD) and those who are immunocompromised, the wait-time is three months between jabs. For the others, the delay is set at six months.”

For those who have already been infected by Covid-19, the HAS recommends that if you are eligible for a second (or third booster) that the additional dose “is still recommended, with a minimum delay of three months after infection.”