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Can France bounce back from Covid-19 crisis quicker than expected?

France's statistics office unveiled Wednesday survey data that shows there is a chance the country's economy could return to near pre-coronavirus levels by the end of the year.

Can France bounce back from Covid-19 crisis quicker than expected?
Parisian cafes have been busy since they reopened end of June. Photo: AFP

INSEE released updated economic forecasts for the year that see a strong 19 percent rebound in gross domestic product in the quarter that begins in July and then a small increase in the fourth quarter. 

Nevertheless, with the output lost during the lockdown that stretched from March into May, the French economy is heading for a nine percent drop for the year, “the strongest contraction since national accounts began to be compiled in 1948”.

That forecast is nevertheless more optimistic than the French government's prediction of 11 percent, the French central bank's 10 percent, and the European Commission's 10.6 percent. 

INSEE noted, however, that given the uncertainty about the evolution of the health situation as well further impacts on the economy, the forecasts should be considered with caution. 

The statistics office surveyed some 38,000 companies in the first half of June about when they expect their business activity to return to pre-crisis levels. And these showed France's economy could recover most of the lost ground by the end of the year. 

 

Under the central scenario, economic activity will have returned to a level of around four percent below normal at the end of the year.

Under the optimistic scenario, economic activity may be down around just two percent.

When the French economy was under lockdown for the entire month of April, economic activity was down an estimated 30 percent. INSEE says that around three-fifths of that drop had been recovered in June. 

The pessimistic scenario has French economic activity six percent below normal at the end of the year.

INSEE said the “strength of the rebound is to a large extent a reflection of the weakness of the point of departure, that is to say the level of economic activity during the lockdown period.” 

It said the measures the government adopted to support workers staying on payrolls has apparently helped facilitate facilitate the quick recovery, but pointed to industrial firms reporting weak orders, especially from international clients.

“This does not augur well for an immediate return to normal,” said INSEE.

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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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