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HEALTH

‘Little chance of a Covid-19 vaccine before 2021’ warns French epidemiologist

There is little chance of a 100-percent effective coronavirus vaccine by 2021, a French expert warned on Sunday, urging people to take social distancing measures more seriously.

'Little chance of a Covid-19 vaccine before 2021' warns French epidemiologist
Photo: AFP

“A vaccine is several years in development,” said epidemiologist Arnaud Fontanet, a member of the team of scientists advising the government on the crisis, speaking on BFMTV television.

“Of course, there is an unprecedented effort to develop a vaccine, but I would be very surprised if we had that was effective in 2021,” he added.

While we would probably have one that worked partially, we were very far from the end of the crisis, he said.

That being the case, “we have to live with this virus” he said. And since another lockdown was out of the question, people had to go back to “more serious habits”.

Arnaud Fontanet is a member of the French government's advisory Scientific Council. Photo: AFP

“This summer, let's respect physical distance, at least!” he said, stressing that large gatherings were the main threat.

On Saturday, a DJ's set on a beach in the Mediterranean resort of Nice drew thousands of people together, sparking a furious reaction on social media.

 Also on Saturday, a group of well-known doctors called for the government to make the wearing of masks inside public buildings compulsory in a bid to head off a second wave of the coronavirus.

Fontanet said the main risks for the appearance of new virus clusters were in confined spaces, such as on cruise ships, warships, sports halls, discos, slaughterhouses, accommodation housing migrant workers and places of worship.

On Wednesday, the French government said it was preparing for a second wave of Covid-19, but rather than imposing another nationwide lockdown, they would use “targeted” measures such as stay-at-home orders or business closures.

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POLITICS

‘Public opinion is ready’ – These French senators want to legalise marijuana

A group of 31 French senators of the Socialist, Green and Republican parties have come together to write a statement calling for the legalisation of marijuana in France.

'Public opinion is ready' - These French senators want to legalise marijuana

France is known for having some of the strictest laws regarding marijuana consumption in Europe – while simultaneously maintaining one of the highest rates of cannabis usage in the EU. 

A group of French senators – coming from the Socialist, Green and centre-right Les Républicains parties – are trying to change those laws, and have come together to call for marijuana to be legalised in France.

The group of 31 co-signed a statement published in French newspaper, Le Monde, on Wednesday, August 10th.

In the statement, the senators promised to launch a ‘consultation process’ to submit a bill to legalise marijuana “in the coming months.”

The proposition was headed by Senator Gilbert-Luc Devinaz, a member of the Socialist Party, and gained support from the party’s leader, Patrick Kanner.

READ MORE: The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

A report by the Assemblé Nationale, which was published in May 2021, estimated that nearly 18 million French people (more than 25 percent of the population) had already consumed marijuana, and that an additional 1.5 million consume it regularly.

This, coupled with the 2019 finding that nearly one in two French people (45 percent) said they were in favour of legalisation, according to a survey by the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), helped strengthen the senators’ position.

“Public opinion is ready, the legislature must act,” they wrote.

Their senators argue that legalising marijuana in France will allow the authorities to better protect French citizens, saying that legalising would not require “minimising the health impacts of cannabis consumption” but rather would allow regulation similar to “public policies for tobacco, alcohol or gambling.”

For the group of 31 senators, the benefits of legalisation would involve a better control over the “health quality of products consumed,” “curbing trafficking in disadvantaged areas,” developing large-scale prevention plans,” and finally the taxation of cannabis products and redirection of law enforcement resources. Decriminalisation – in their opinion – would not be sufficient as this would simply “deprive authorities the ability to act,” in contrast to legalisation. 

READ MORE: Is France moving towards legalising cannabis for recreational purposes?

“In the long term, new tax revenues would be generated from the cannabis trade and from savings in the justice and police sectors”, which would make it possible to mobilize “significant resources for prevention as well as for rehabilitation and economic development,” wrote the senators.

In France, the conversation around cannabis has evolved in recent years – former Health Minister (and current government spokesman) Olivier Véran said to France Bleu in September 2021 that “countries that have gone towards legalisation have results better than those of France in the last ten years,” adding that he was interested in the potential therapeutic use of cannabis.

Currently, the drug is illegal in France. Previously, it fell under a 1970-law of illicit drug use, making it punishable with up to a year prison and an up to €3,750 fine.

However, in 2020, the government softened the penalties, making it possible for those caught consuming it to opt for an on-the-spot fine of €200.

There is also an ongoing trial involving 3,000 patients to test the impacts of medical marijuana usage, particularly with regard to pain relief. 

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