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LIFE IN PARIS

Mysterious ‘superhero’ picking the locks of Paris’ closed parks and gardens

A mysterious figure who picks the locks of Paris parks at night for people who have been cooped up in the city's tiny apartments has become something of a folk hero.

Mysterious 'superhero' picking the locks of Paris' closed parks and gardens
Photo: AFP

Parks have been chained up in Europe's most densely populated capital since the coronavirus lockdown began more than eight weeks ago.

Although parks have reopened in France's 'green zones' with fewer coronavirus cases, as a red zone Paris' parks remain closed, despite the city's mayor Anne Hidalgo pleading with the government to allow them to reopen if people wore masks.

But as temperatures hit 30C this week, an amateur lock-picker admitted that he has been opening parks at night to let Parisians sit on the grass and smell the roses.

Police clearing the laws of Les Invalides in Paris. Photo: AFP

A man calling himself “Jose” told French daily Le Parisien that he has been liberating parks in the poorer districts of northern and eastern Paris in a series of “Batman” style nocturnal actions.

Two handwritten posters hanging from the railings of the Parc de Belleville on Friday said “Thank you, Jose!”, seeming to show that the phantom locker picker has generated a following.

Discontent with the closure of parks has been rising since France began to slowly relax its lockdown last week, with the police forced to clear the huge open lawns in front of Les Invalides in central Paris of picnickers twice in two days.

Officers had earlier dispersed hundreds of people from the banks of Canal Saint-Martin.

Jose, who claims he only picks locks as a hobby and makes an honest living from a “normal job”, said: “Paris apartments are very small. We are supposed to be coming out of lockdown, but everything is closed.”

Almost a quarter of Paris's population escaped the city – many of them going to second homes in the country – during the strictest period of the lockdown.

But the city's poor and essential workers were stuck in often tiny flats during one of the sunniest springs on record.

Hidalgo, who is fighting a re-election campaign, asked the government to treat parks like the city's streets and allow people to “stroll through them if they were wearing a mask, which should be obligatory”.

But Health Minister Olivier Véran said the parks should stay shut as long as Paris and its surroundings remain in the “red zone” of infections.

He said the risk of people gathering and not respecting social distancing was too great.

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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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