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COVID-19

Last night out for French cities ahead of Covid-19 curfew

Millions of French people prepared Friday to enjoy a last night of freedom before a Covid-19 curfew in Paris and other large cities, after officials warned that new efforts were needed to curb an alarming surge in new cases.

Last night out for French cities ahead of Covid-19 curfew
Two women on the terrace of a restaurant in Paris last week. From now on parisians will have to be home by 9pm. Illustration photo: AFP

The curfew, which aims to keep some 20 million people home from 9pm to 6am, was unveiled by President Emmanuel Macron this week as the number of new infections and deaths raised the spectre of hospital overloads like those seen in March and April.

Health authorities reported Thursday a record 30,621 new cases in the past 24 hours and 88 deaths, and over 200 new Covid-19 admissions to intensive care units. 

While the curfew has broad public support – a Harris Interactive poll after Macron's announcement found 70 percent approval – officials in several cities worried about the heavy social and economic costs of a measure set to last at least a month.

The new nighttime restrictions come into force for the first time at midnight on Friday in the capital and eight other major regional cities.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is pressing the government to ease the rules for theatres, cinemas and other cultural venues so that patrons can return home later, with details on the rules in the capital expected later Friday.

Restaurant owners have also complained bitterly about a measure they say makes little sense given the strict social distancing rules they have already applied, and noting that groups of less than six can still gather for lunch.

“I've never seen anything like this in the 50 years I've been here,” said Stain Roman, manager of La Mere Buonavista restaurant in Marseille, another city facing the curfew.

She said she would close down entirely at night, as have hundreds of other restaurants across France. “What else can we do? Our employees have to be home by 9pm,” she said.

Marseille's Mayor Michele Rubirola – herself a doctor – contested a measure she said resulted from the government's insufficent efforts to bolster hospital systems over the last few months.

She said residents were paying the price “by the loss of their daily pleasures, their freedom, or through economic hardship, because the bar and restaurant industry is being hit extremely hard.”

French police officers patrolling at night during lockdown. As of this weekend, they will be out again to make sure the curfew is respected. Illustration photo: AFP

'Everybody home'

Prime Minister Jean Castex confirmed Thursday that the curfew requires nearly all businesses would have to shut their doors, except for essential services, with “everybody home from 9 to 6.”

A signed attestation or an electronic version downloaded to a phone will be needed for people walking their dogs or other exceptions, or risk a fine of €135 – the same as during the two-month lockdown during the height of the pandemic.

That prompted the French cinemas federation to warn of “extremely serious” consequences for the sector, urging authorities to let people return later for films that end after 9pm.

Officials have also outlawed wedding celebrations and other parties in public venues as well as student parties, and urged people to limit gatherings in private homes to six people as well.

“We have to act. We need to put a brake on the spread of the virus,” Macron said Wednesday, when he also put the entire country back under a health state of emergency.

The move notably requires all restaurants to require clients to provide contact details so that authorities can contact them if a coronavirus infection is reported.

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HEALTH

Reader Question: Can I get a third Covid booster shot in France?

As France launches its autumn vaccine campaign, almost half of those eligible for the second booster jab in France have already received it. This has left some wondering whether they could qualify for a third booster, using the new dual-strain vaccines.

Reader Question: Can I get a third Covid booster shot in France?

Question: I’m in my 70s and I had my second booster back in the summer but now I see that the new dual-strain vaccines are available – should I be getting an extra booster with the new type of vaccine?

French health authorities launched the autumn booster campaign on October 3rd includes newly authorised dual-strain vaccines – such as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine adapted to BA.1, the Moderna vaccine adapted to BA.1, and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine adapted to BA.4/5 – which are designed to combat the Omicron variant.

It will be followed by the seasonal flu vaccination campaign in mid October.

READ MORE: When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters this autumn in France

In France, about 6.3 million people have received a second booster dose, “or 41 percent of the eligible population,” said the Directorate General of Health (DGS) to Ouest France.

Currently only those in high risk groups are eligible for a second booster shot, including pregnant women, the elderly those with medical conditions or carers – find the full list here.

As almost half of the eligible population have already received a fourth vaccine, many are wondering whether they will be eligible for a fifth (or third booster) in order to access the new dual-strain vaccine.  

According to Virginie, a representative from HAS – France’s health authority – the organisation “no longer thinks in terms of doses for high-risk people and immunocompromised patients.”

Specifically, the HAS recommends that a new injection be given – and if possible one of the dual-strain vaccines – “regardless of the number of injections received up to now”.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Who qualifies for a second Covid vaccine booster in France?

However, French health authorities specified that the additional booster should “respect the minimum recommended time between two doses.”

“This depends based on your profile – for people aged 80 and over, residents of nursing homes or long-term care units (USLD) and those who are immunocompromised, the wait-time is three months between jabs. For the others, the delay is set at six months.”

For those who have already been infected by Covid-19, the HAS recommends that if you are eligible for a second (or third booster) that the additional dose “is still recommended, with a minimum delay of three months after infection.”

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