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COVID-19

Coronavirus epidemic: Parisians struggle to adapt to ‘social distancing’ as confinement looms

As coronavirus spreads, the French government is imploring citizens to stay away from each other, but not everyone is heeding the warning it seems.

Coronavirus epidemic: Parisians struggle to adapt to 'social distancing' as confinement looms

The parks, markets and boulevards of Paris remained busy this weekend, despite the pleas of Prime Minister Édouard Philippe who, on Saturday, had called on the nation to observe a policy of 'distanciation sociale', or 'social distancing', after banning gatherings of more than 100 people

The government's advice includes keeping a distance of one metre between yourself and others and taking care not to come into unnecessary contact with people, but that didn't stop large crowds from enjoying the sun in some of the capital's most popular hotspots including the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, the banks of the Canal St Martin and the Abbesses quarter.

Social media users were quick to point out the somewhat irresponsible nature of the gatherings.

Many people took to Twitter to voice their anger and frustration at the those who'd decided to go against the government's advice.

 

 

With a nation famed for its café culture already reeling from the closure of all restaurants and bars, it seems Parisians were desperate to enjoy what could prove to be a last weekend of freedom, at least for the time being.

The fact it was the first warm and sunny day of the year didn't help.

But it may be the last time Parisians are allowed out to do as they please.

According to the French newspaper the Journal de Dimanche, the government is considering even stricter containment methods, including a transition to complete lockdown in at least two regions: Grand-Est and Île-de-France, the region which contains Paris. Hospitals in both regions risk being overwhelmed if lack of compliance on this scale continues.

French president Emmanuel Macron will speak to the nation on Monday evening when it is expected he will announce new restrictions on life along the lines of confinement measures adopted in Italy and Spain.

On Monday there were growing calls among scientists and health chiefs that the only way to stem the spread of the virus was via forcing people to stay in their own homes.

“It's the only method we have today to limit the spread of the virus,” said Doctor Alain Ducardonnet, the helth consultant on French TV channel BFM TV.

“There is no vaccine so the only real vaccine is to limit the spread through individual discipline.”

Paris hospital chief  Djiallali Annan said “At the stage we are at, it's the only way to stop the spread of the virus.”

France's Health Minister Olivier Veran on Friday 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.

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HEALTH

French government calls on over-60s to get second Covid booster as cases rise

As Covid cases show a significant rise in France in recent weeks, the government is calling on all eligible groups to get a second Covid vaccine booster shot.

French government calls on over-60s to get second Covid booster as cases rise

After a 40 percent rise in Covid-19 cases in the last week, the French Health ministry is calling all eligible people – including over 60s and those health conditions – to receive their second booster (fourth dose) of the vaccine.

“It is necessary to redouble our efforts to protect vulnerable people, this is done through vaccination and this campaign of second boosters is absolutely necessary,” said the ministry of health.

The Covid incidence rate is increasing in more than 50 départements across France. Currently, there are an average of 50,000 positive tests per day, which has also been accompanied by an increase in hospitalisations. 

“This is very clearly a reprisal of the epidemic linked to the arrival of new variants of the Omicron family, which are called BA4 BA5,” said infectious disease specialist Anne-Claude Crémieux to Franceinfo. Crémieux added that these variants are faster-spreading.

Therefore, the government is calling on vulnerable people to take their second booster dose (the fourth dose of the vaccine).

So far, only a quarter of eligible people have taken their second booster dose, with an average rate of 25,000 to 30,000 injections per day for the past two months.

“This is not enough, and it is not going fast enough,” urged the Ministry of Health on Tuesday.

The Haute autorité de santé also recently released its recommendation for a vaccination campaign to give a second Covid vaccine booster shot for the wider population, starting in October. 

The HAS recommendation advises starting France’s annual flu vaccine campaign in mid October (mid September for the French overseas territory of Mayotte) and combining it with a campaign to give a second Covid vaccine booster ahead of a possible new wave of Covid in the winter. 

At present although the great majority of the French adult population is vaccinated against Covid with two doses and a booster, a second booster is only recommended for people in high risk groups such as the over 60s and those with long-term health conditions.

The HAS recommendation reads: “At the end of May, the HAS recommended preparing for a booster shot campaign for people most at risk of developing the most severe forms of Covid, and envisaged a booster shot for healthcare workers.

“Those parts of the population most at risk are also those for whom the seasonal flu vaccination is recommended, therefore for logistical reasons the HAS recommends combining the two campaigns.”

The flu campaign is advised to go ahead as normal, starting in mid-October.

The HAS only makes recommendations, the details of policy are up to the government, but it usually follows HAS advice.

The usual seasonal flu campaign in France offers a vaccine for free to anyone in a high risk group, which includes the elderly, people with underling health conditions, healthcare workers and pregnant women – full details HERE on how to get the vaccine.

Those who don’t fit into those categories can still access the vaccine, but must pay for it – €6-€10 for the vaccine and the standard appointment charge to have it administered by a doctor (€25, with 70 percent reimbursed for those with a carte vitale).

The flu vaccine is available from family doctors, midwives and participating pharmacies once the campaign officially launches.

The Covid vaccine is also available from family doctors, midwives and pharmacies, but most of the vaccine centres set up in 2021 have now been closed down.

There is currently no suggestion a return of the health pass, so a second booster shot would be entirely voluntary, but the government has the power to re-introduce such measures if a major wave of Covid hits France over the autumn and winter.

Currently, there are no plans to lower the age minimum (as of now set at 60 years old) for receiving a second booster. Health authorities believe that the immune response after a first booster “continues to sufficiently protect” younger adults.

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