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Pogacar crowned Tour de France winner after a delayed race under strict health conditions

Slovenian rookie Tadej Pogacar won the Tour de France on Sunday, riding triumphantly into Paris in the race leader's yellow jersey at just 21 years old.

Pogacar crowned Tour de France winner after a delayed race under strict health conditions
Photo: AFP

His victory marked the end of a tense Tour, held two months later than normal under strict health conditions with limited crowds.

Pogacar became the Tour's youngest champion since 1904 as Ireland's Sam Bennett won the 21st and final stage after the eight-lap dash around the iconic Champs-Elysees to clinch the green sprint points jersey.

The champion mounted the podium as the sun set behind the Arc de Triomphe to pick up the best climber's jersey, the white top young rider's prize and finally the Tour winner's famous yellow jersey.

“I can't find the words to thank everyone, but it's been amazing this three weeks where the fans cheered me all the way,” said Pogacar.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo stood alongside Slovenian President Borut Pahor while Pogacar unfurled his national flag and draped it over his shoulders.

Long-time race leader Primoz Roglic ended second while Australia's Richie Porte came third.

Pogacar's UAE Emirates team pocketed €623,930 thanks to his victory.

Dressed in green, Bennett lifted his bike aloft after the race, which provided his second stage win.

“It was so hard but it was all worth it, I still can't believe it,” said the big sprinter after edging seven-time winner Peter Sagan to the green jersey.

This storied edition of the century-old race packed with thrills and spills will be equally recalled for outsprinting the dark shadow of Covid-19.

Starting two months late due to the global pandemic, the race set off under strict health guidelines in Nice with doubts it would make it all the way to Paris.

French President Emmanuel Macron is credited with giving the green light for a rescheduled event heavy in virus protocols to go ahead.

But after 3,400km of intense racing the 146 remaining riders embarked Sunday for a parade of the winners until the hotly-disputed sprint in Paris.

The race was a triumph of organisation after receiving belated clearance to stage the event, although just 5,000 fans lined Sunday's finish due to the health protocol.

Race director Christian Prudhomme was left with a red face when he was sent home mid-race when he tested positive after the first week. Having shared a car with him during the race, French Prime Minister Jean Castex also had to be tested for the virus.

But Prudhomme will also take plaudits for this Tour and the colossal force of will it took to pull it all off without major incident.

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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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