LATEST: Coronavirus death toll rises as France grapples with new restrictions

France ratcheted up security measures this weekend to stem the coronavirus epidemic, which has lead to 127 deaths and contaminated more than 5,400 people. (Paywall free)

LATEST: Coronavirus death toll rises as France grapples with new restrictions
Parisians were enjoying the mild weather on Sunday, despite the government having asked everyone to limit their social interactions as much as possible. Photo: AFP

National health agency Santé Publique France, which has been updating its tally daily, put the new toll at 127 deaths on Sunday, as the government announced more stringent measures to stem the spread of the epidemic in the country.

More than 5,400 people have so far been confirmed contaminated by the virus.

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

“We will continue to mobilise to counter this health crisis,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Sunday evening.

The PM said the government would organise new meetings with both the scientific council working specifically with the crisis and the opposition next week to “ensure complete transparency” on their dealings with the crisis.

Voters were instructed to keep a metre between themselves as they waited to cast their polls on Sunday. Photo: AFP

Sunday's local elections went ahead as planned, although voter turnout – despite the government's reassurances that polling stations would take all the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of voters.

“The high abstention rate shows that people are very worried,” the PM said.

Voter abstention was looking to be record high, at 56 percent at 8pm according to the French polling institute Elabe, against 36,45 percent in the last elections in 2014.

France ratcheted up its coronavirus regulations this weekend, ordering the closing of cafes, restaurants, schools and universities – all “non-essential commercial activity” – and limiting long-distance travel “to the strictly necessary.”

“We have observed that the first measures we have taken have not been correctly applied,” Philippe said on Saturday. “The best way to slow the virus is social distancing.”

French health authorities have stressed that 98 percent of people contaminated by the virus recover, but that it was essential to slow the acceleration of the epidemic by adopting measures of social distancing.

Only food stores, pharmacies (drug stores), banks and petrol stations were exempt from the ban and would be able to stay open in the coming weeks.

Bars, hotels and restaurants would still be able to maintain a minimum level of activity to make home deliveries, but they would not be able to receive customers on site.

READ MORE: What's closed (and what's open) in France following the new coronavirus restrictions

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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.”