‘The virus has not gone on holiday’ warns French prime minister

Prime Minister Jean Castex on Monday urged France "not to let down its guard" in the fight against the coronavirus in order to prevent the need for a new national lockdown, as concern grows over a recent surge in cases.

'The virus has not gone on holiday' warns French prime minister
Prime minister Jean Castex visiting Lille. Photo: AFP

“The virus has not gone on holiday and neither have we,” the premier said on a visit to the northeastern city of Lille. “We need to protect ourselves against this virus, without putting a stop to our economic and social life, in other words avoiding the risk of a new generalised lockdown.” 

France, which has registered over 30,000 deaths from the Covid-19 epidemic, recorded thousands of new cases last week prompting some regions to reimpose local restrictions.

“We are seeing an increase in the figures for the epidemic which should make us more attentive than ever, and this is the case,” Castex said.

“I call on every French person to remain very vigilant. The fight against the virus depends of course on the state, local communities, institutions, but also on each of us,” he added.

The city of Lille, a bustling hub close to the Belgian border, has been the subject of particular concern with the prevalence of the virus doubling to 38 people per 100,000 people over the last two weeks.

MAP Which areas of France are 'of concern' to local authorities as Covid-19 cases spike?


In parts of the city it is now obligatory to wear masks outside to limit the contagion, a move that local authorities can impose if necessary.

Authorities in dozens of towns across France have brought in their own mask rules, including popular summer tourist destinations such as Biarritz, Saint-Malo, Le Touquet, La Rochelle and Deauville.

MAP Where in France is it compulsory to wear a mask in the street?

The French government has been determined to encourage citizens to go on holiday this year, especially within the country, in the hope of giving some help to an economy that contracted by a whopping 13.8 percent in the second quarter.

But officials are keenly aware that the opening up brings risks.

There has been much criticism of young people pictured partying in holiday resorts without masks, although the latest government data shows that workplaces are the primary site for Covid-19 clusters.

Member comments

  1. “The French government has been determined to encourage citizens to go on holiday this year, especially within the country”
    Could this be the reason why we are now seeing outbreaks in areas that didn’t have it before, surely not! I’m sure the PM knows what he is doing. LOL

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New Covid wave in autumn ‘virtually certain’ say French experts

The head of the government's new health advisory body says that a surge of Covid cases when the French head back to work after the summer break is virtually certain.

New Covid wave in autumn 'virtually certain' say French experts

Immunologist Brigitte Autran, president of new government health advisory body the Comité de veille et d’anticipation des risques sanitaires (Committee to monitor and anticipate health risks) which has replaced the Conseil scientifique, told Le Parisien that “the Covid epidemic is not behind us” and said that the French would have to get used to “living with” the virus.

The Covidtracker website currently shows that the virus is in decline across France, with the R-rate currently at 0.7 – any figure lower than one indicates that the number of infections is falling.

Autran, whose appointment as head of the new body was confirmed on Wednesday, said that the most likely scenario was for a “new epidemic peak in the autumn”, when people return to work after the summer holidays.

“Will it be due to a new variant or the return of cold weather?” she said. “We are not soothsayers, but it is almost certain that there will be a wave.”

“Today, we must go towards living with it,” she added, reintroducing the French to an expression previously used by President Emmanuel Macron and several ministers.

“This does not mean accepting the deaths or the severity of the disease,” she went on, pointing to the fact that health authorities in France still have “levers to activate” to fight the virus. 

Despite the fact that nearly 80 percent (79.6 percent) of people over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated against the virus, she said that, “unfortunately there are still too many people who have not been vaccinated or revaccinated.”

And she said the new body would work with the government to improve the public’s access to drugs, such as Paxlovid, and vaccines.

Vaccination is still open to anyone who has not yet had their shots, while a second booster shot is on offer to certain groups including over 60s, pregnant women, those with health conditions or people who are in close contact with vulnerable people.

EXPLAINED Who qualifies for a second Covid vaccine booster shot in France?

The French government in August voted to end to State of Emergency that allowed it to impose measures like travel bans and lockdowns, although further restrictions could be put in place if cases rise again and parliament agrees.