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HEALTH

Ski resorts in France to remain closed due to ‘steep rise in Covid-19 cases’

France's ski resorts will not be able to reopen on January 7th as initially planned, France's Secretary of State for tourism confirmed on Wednesday.

Ski resorts in France to remain closed due to 'steep rise in Covid-19 cases'
Skiing is allowed in France, but ski lifts remain closed for the moment. Photo: AFP
Prime Minister Jean Castex and Health Minister Olivier Véran will hold a press conference on Thursday at 6pm to review Covid-19 restrictions, and ski resorts were hoping they would get the green light to finally open and being forced to close for the early part of the season.

READ ALSO: What can we expect from the French government's Covid-19 announcement?

But Secretary of State for tourism Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne told AFP that in light of “a rather steep rise in terms of new (Covid-19) cases and intensive care admissions”, the government had decided to push back the date.

France on Wednesday recorded 25,379 new Covid-19 cases over the past 24 hours, up from 20,489 the preceding day, and far above the weekly average of around 13,000.

Hospital intensive care wards admitted another 234 patients, a number that has been stable the past few days, but the government fears it will rise following a predicted spike in viral transmissions during the Christmas break.

READ ALSO The graphs and numbers that show the latest Covid-19 situation in France

 

Unlike neighbouring Switzerland, France has kept its ski resorts closed since the end of lockdown in early December.

While the government has allowed travel to the mountains and ski resorts, ski lifts and all other infrastructure had to keep shut, ruling out most winter sports. 

Alpine areas are among the ones the hardest affected by Covid-19, which is one of the reasons that the government worries about relaxing rules on skiing activities.
 

Lemoyne said the ski sector would not get a new reopening date until after a Defence Council meeting next week.
 
“The government is well aware of that the sector needs clarity and we are committed to providing this for the rest of the season as quickly as possible,” Lemoyne said.
 
Across France all bars, cafés and restaurants remain shut as well, along with cinemas, theatres and other cultural establishments. The French government has already confirmed that it intends to postpone the reopening of both these sectors in light of the current health situation.

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HEALTH

Carte vitale: France to adopt a new ‘biometric’ health card

The French parliament has approved a €20 million project to launch a 'biometric' version of the carte vitale health insurance card.

Carte vitale: France to adopt a new 'biometric' health card

As part of the French government’s package of financial aid for the cost-of-living crisis, €20 million will be set set aside to launch a biometric health card, after an amendment proposed by senators was approved.

Right-wing senators made this measure a “condition” of their support for the financial aid package, according to French left-wing daily Libération, and on Thursday the measure was approved by the Assemblée nationale.

While it sounds quite high tech, the idea is relatively simple, according to centre-right MP Thibault Bazin: the carte vitale would be equipped with a chip that “contains physical characteristics of the insured, such as their fingerprints” which would allow healthcare providers to identify them.

The carte vitale is the card that allows anyone registered in the French health system to be reimbursed for medical costs such as doctor’s appointments, medical procedures and prescriptions. The card is linked to the patient’s bank account so that costs are reimbursed directly into the bank account, usually within a couple of days.

READ ALSO How a carte vitale works and how to get one

According to the centre-right Les Républicains group, the reason for having a ‘biometric’ carte vitale is to fight against welfare fraud.

They say this would have two functions; firstly the biometric data would ensure the card could only be used by the holder, and secondly the chip would allow for instant deactivation if the card was lost of stolen.

Support for the biometric carte vitale has mostly been concentrated with right-wing representatives, however, opponants say that the implementation of the tool would be costly and lengthy.

It would involve replacing at least 65 million cards across France and repurposing them with biometric chips, in addition to taking fingerprints for all people concerned.

Additionally, all healthcare professionals would have to join the new system and be equipped with devices capable of reading fingerprints. 

Left-leaning representatives have also voiced concerns regarding the protection of personal data and whether plans would comply with European regulations for protecting personal data, as the creation of ‘biometric’ carte vitales would inevitably lead to the creation of a centralised biometric database. Additionally, there are concerns regarding whether this sensitive personal information could be exposed to cybercrime, as the health insurance system in France has been targeted by hackers in the past.

Finally, there is concern that the amount of financial loss represented by carte vitale fraud has been overestimated. The true figures are difficult to establish, but fraud related to carte vitale use is only a small part of general welfare fraud, which also covers unemployment benefits and other government subsidy schemes.

The scheme is set to begin in the autumn, but there us no information on how this will be done, and whether the biometric chip will just be added to new cards, or whether existing cards will be replaced with new ones. 

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