French President Macron pledges no ‘unjustifiable delays’ in Covid jabs

French President Emmanuel Macron vowed Thursday Deccember 31, to avoid "unjustifiable delays" in efforts to immunise citizens against Covid-19 following criticism over the slow pace of the inoculation campaign.

French President Macron pledges no 'unjustifiable delays' in Covid jabs
Image: Stephane de Sakutin / AFP

But in his New Year's address to the nation Macron also struck a defensive note, saying he would let “no-one play with the safety” of the vaccination drive.

With France's vaccination programme so far paling in comparison to many other EU countries, Macron – who has himself just recovered from Covid-19 – is under pressure to step up the pace.

Since Sunday, fewer than 200 people have been given the Pfizer-BioNTech jab in France, compared to 78,000 in Germany.

The government had defended the pace, saying that officials were taking time to win over a vaccine-sceptical nation by giving patients time to consider their choices.

But shortly before Macron's speech, Health Minister Olivier Veran announced plans to expand the campaign which so far has solely targeted care-home residents and health workers aged over 65.

Veran said that from Monday health workers aged over 50 could also get the jab – much sooner than initially planned. The race to immunise the population gained increased urgency following the
announcement Thursday that a South African variant of coronavirus, feared to be more contagious, had been detected in France.

The news came less than a week after France confirmed it had also recorded its first case of a new strain blamed for a spike of infections in Britain.

The pandemic has claimed 64,632 lives in France, where bars, restaurants and cultural and sporting venues remain closed two weeks after the end of a second nationwide lockdown.

“This year 2020 has been difficult,” Macron, who was forced by the virus to put his reform drive on the back burner, acknowledged. “But together we emerge more united,” he said.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The French parliament has passed the controversial health bill which updates France's emergency provisions for Covid - and allows the return of negative Covid tests for all travellers at the border, if the health situation requires.

French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The Loi sanitaire was eventually approved by the Assemblée nationale on Monday after several variations and amendments added on its passage through the Assemblée and the Senate. It was voted on and passed Tuesday, May 26th. 

The bill replaces the State of Health Emergency that has been in place since March 2020 and puts in place provision for government actions should the health situation deteriorate or a dangerous new variant of Covid emerge.

The original text had a provision for the return of the health pass at the border, but this has now been scrapped and instead the government has the right to make a negative Covid test a condition of entry for all travellers.

At present negative tests are required only for unvaccinated travellers, and the new test requirement would only be put into force if a dangerous new variant emerges.

The government will be able to implement the testing rule by decree for two months, but a further parliamentary debate would be required to extend it beyond that.

From August 1st the State of Health Emergency will be formally repealed, which means that the government no longer has the power to introduce major limits on personal freedom such as lockdowns or curfews without first having a debate in parliament.

The bill also allows for an extension of data collection required for the SI-DEP epidemic monitoring tools such as the contact tracing app Tous Anti Covid until June 30th, 2023 and Contact Covid until January 31st, 2023. 

The most controversial measure in the bill was the reinstatement of healthcare workers who were suspended for being unvaccinated – this actually only involves a couple of hundred people but medical unions and the medical regulator Haut Autorité de Santé (HAS) have both been against it.

However the bill allows for the eventual lifting of the requirement for Covid vaccination for healthcare workers, when the HAS judges it is no longer necessary and once the requirement is lifted, the suspended healthcare workers will be reinstated “immediately”.

The bill was approved on Monday evening with 184 votes to 149, the result of a joint committee that was able to harmonise the versions of the Assembly and the Senate.

The final vote passed the Senate on Tuesday.