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HEALTH

No return to lockdown but plans for earlier curfew, announces France’s health minister

France will not - as many had feared - be returning to lockdown in the near future, the health minister has announced.

No return to lockdown but plans for earlier curfew, announces France's health minister
Health minister Olivier Véran. Photo: AFP

The worsening Covid-19 situation in several regions and the convening of the country's Defence Council for a meeting had led to widespread speculation that extra health restrictions would shortly be announced.

But instead, health minister Olivier Véran announced on TV channel France 2 that there will be a consultation on extra measures for the worst affected areas only, including a 6pm curfew.

The eastern parts of France are seeing considerably higher numbers than the west of the country, but on a national level case numbers and hospital numbers remain stable.

READ ALSO Which areas of France are worst affected as Covid-19 cases rise?

He said: “We've been on a plateau for about three weeks, with about 15,000 new cases a day. So we are still too high. Hospital pressure remains high. There are significant regional disparities.”

 

However he added that case numbers were not, for the moment, increasing.

Véran said that the Council had therefore decided not to reintroduce lockdown.

Instead a consultation with local authorities in the worst-hit areas has begun and will centre on the introduction of a 6pm-6am curfew. This would be applied only in the worst-affected départements and metropole areas, not on a regional level.

But although there will be no new lockdown, Véran would not be drawn on whether cinemas, theatres and cultural centres could reopen as planned on January 7th, saying that the government wanted to see data showing whether the Christmas holidays have led to a spike in cases.

He said:  “We need to see the effect of Christmas, possibly of the New Year. By the beginning of January we'll see more clearly.”

France's Covid-19 case numbers peaked at 50,000 new cases per day at the end of October, before falling sharply as the second lockdown took effect.

They fell to around 12,000 a day by the end of November, but since then have plateaued and have never got close to the government's target of 5,000 a day.

Reporting of both case numbers and death rates has been a little erratic over the holiday period, but Véran said there had been a slight rise in the last week, but this could be down to a huge spike in testing before the Christmas holidays.

The week before Christmas 3 million people were tested, a 74 percent increase on the previous week and the highest test numbers in Europe. The majority of those getting tested were asymptomatic – in general people getting a test as a precaution before travelling to spend Christmas with friends or relatives.

The French government has been concerned about a 'Christmas effect' of a spike in cases resulting from people travelling and spending the holiday period with friends and relatives, but this effect will only become apparent in next week's data.

Curfew

The government's proposal, which is being discussed with local authorities, is for a 6pm to 6am curfew in badly-hit areas, starting from January 2nd. The rest of the country would remain on the current 8pm to 6am curfew.

 

The curfew would be applied in départements and metropoles – cities and their surrounding suburbs – where case numbers are high, but not to entire regions.

 

There are 20 départements that could potentially be affected by the earlier curfew; Allier, Hautes-Alpes, Alpes-Maritimes, Ardèche, Ardennes, Aube, Doubs, Jura, Marne, Haute-Marne, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Meuse, Moselle, Nièvre, Haut-Rhin, Haute-Saône, Saône-et-Loire, Vosges, Yonne and Territoire de Belfort.

What next?

For those areas not affected by the 6pm curfew, the same rules remain in place.

The whole country is under an 8pm to 6am curfew and all bars, restaurants, cafés, gyms, theatres, cinemas, museums and cultural centres remain closed.

However people no longer need a permission form to leave their homes and socialising is again allowed, although gatherings of more than 10 people are not allowed in public places – apart from demonstrations and religious services. People are recommended to keep private social gatherings to a maximum of six people and continue to observe precautions such as social distancing and mask-wearing.

The key date is January 7th – by then the government must decide whether to reopen cultural spaces or not.

Cultural centres such as cinemas, museums and tourist attractions had originally been due to reopen on December 15th, but this was delayed when case numbers failed to fall below 5,000 a day.

The provisional reopen date was given as January 7th, if the health situation allows. Bars, restaurants, cafés and gyms were scheduled to reopen on January 20th, although again this will only happen if the health situation is good enough.

By January 7th the effect, if any, of the Christmas holidays will also be apparent. 

Member comments

  1. Does this child even know what he is doing? He’s like the rest of Macron’s posse no experience and scared stiff of the mob. Being a politician is not about pleasing people to garner votes but about being able to make hard decisions that are unpopular for the good of a country.

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HEALTH

Experts warn of high levels of flu in France this winter

Experts have warned of a particularly bad flu epidemic this winter in France due to a combination of lowered immune systems and 'vaccine apathy' - urging high-risk groups to get their shot as soon as the flu vaccination campaign begins in October.

Experts warn of high levels of flu in France this winter

France’s annual flu vaccine campaign will officially get under way on October 18th this year – and medical experts have warned that this year’s season may be a bad one amid fears of “vaccine apathy”.

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

Immunologist Alain Fischer, who chaired France’s Conseil d’orientation de la stratégie vaccinale throughout the Covid-19 pandemic said that the high number of flu cases in Australia and the southern hemisphere in its winter were “a warning sign” that this winter’s flu, coupled with rising cases of Covid-19, could lead to a sharp rise in hospitalisations again in the winter.

“For two years, influenza has been kept at bay, thanks to the barrier measures we have put in place against Covid,” he told Le Parisien. 

“This year, it will be difficult to maintain the same level of protection: masks, distancing, intensive hand washing … Faced with this relaxation, there is a serious risk of flu epidemic.”

Between two million and six million people contract flu every winter in France. The infection is responsible for between 4,000 and 6,000 deaths every year, usually among people aged 65 and over. But in ‘bad’ flu years, that mortality figure can rise rapidly.

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

The country, meanwhile, is at the start of what is being described as an “eighth wave” of Covid, and the Haute Autorité de santé recommends the eligible, vulnerable people ensure they are vaccinated against both viruses as early as possible. “A Covid-flu cohabitation is not a good thing,”  Fischer said. “It is synonymous with a very high number of hospitalisations. 

“Hence the objective of two strong vaccination campaigns – Covid and flu – especially for the most vulnerable.”

“The double injection is very good, and practical for patients. But I think that we should not wait, especially vulnerable people. It is a mistake to think that you will get your Covid booster when the flu vaccine is here – the Covid jab should not be delayed.”

Currently less than 40 percent of people eligible for a fourth Covid vaccine have received their latest dose.

Dual-strain Covid-19 vaccines designed to combat both delta and omicron variants will be available in France from October 3rd.

READ ALSO France approves new vaccines for Covid Omicron sub-variants

“It is quite possible to get your Covid injection in early October and flu vaccine in late October – you will need both anyway,” Fischer said.

The Haute Autorité de Santé recommends influenza vaccination for the following groups:

  • people aged 65 and over; 
  • people with chronic diseases; 
  • pregnant women;
  • people suffering from obesity (BMI equal to or greater than 40 kg/m 2 );
  • Infants under 6 months at risk of serious influenza;
  • Families and others close to immunocompromised people; 
  • home help workers caring for vulnerable individuals.

For anyone in these groups, the flu vaccine is 100 percent covered by health insurance and delivered free of charge to the pharmacy, on presentation of a voucher.

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