A third lockdown ‘is not inevitable’ says French government spokesman

A third lockdown in France 'is not inevitable' the government spokesman said on Wednesday, but warned that the health situation remains delicate.

A third lockdown 'is not inevitable' says French government spokesman
Government spokesman Gabriel Attal was speaking after the latest Defence Council meeting. Photo: AFP

Speaking after a meeting of the Defence Council, which makes decisions on Covid-related restrictions, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said that a third lockdown was not a foregone conclusion, but the government remains “extremely cautious and attentive”.


With rising pressure on hospitals and fear over the spread of the variant of Covid first identified in the UK, speculation had been growing that France was headed back into lockdown.

A  Friday evening meeting of the Defence Council was followed by a last-minute announcement from Prime Minister, who detailed the tightening of several rules including the closure of France's non-EU borders which he said was a “last chance” to avoid lockdown.

Police enforcement of the curfew has also been stepped up with 65,000 police checks and 6,000 fines issued on Saturday.

Wednesday morning saw another meeting of the Defence Council, and speaking after it Attal said: “The situation remains fragile.

“The variants continue to develop, they call for our full attention. There is neither a lull nor an explosion in the number of cases.

“Lockdown is not inevitable – it is our collective efforts as a country that will enable us to avoid it.
“We have to remain extremely cautious and attentive. We are engaged in a national mobilisation to avoid another lockdown. We will always take the necessary measures, but lockdown is the last resort.”
He also called for people to exercise particular caution over the February school holidays, which begin on Saturday in some parts of France.
Health minister Olivier Véran has described the situation in France as a “high plateau” – the number of cases remains high, but is not seeing rapid growth.

The average number of new cases per day in France is broadly stable at 20,000 new cases per day. When France locked down for a second time in October, cases stood at 50,000 a day, but this time there is the added uncertainty of the new variants of the virus, which health bosses fear will lead to an explosion of cases and deaths as seen in the UK.
Around one in 10 Covid cases in France are now the variant anglais.
The situation in hospitals is also giving cause for concern with 11,263 new admissions, including 1,830 in intensive care, over the last seven days – representing 64.7 percent of the country's intensive care capacity.

The intensive care capacity has seen a six percent increase over the last seven days and hospitals in some areas, including Nice, have been forced to transfer ICU patients to other areas.

Member comments

  1. It’s almost as though they want to ensure all the 3 zones get equal mobility during the school holidays which run from more or less now through to 8th March.

    Personally I would be more comforted if we had a third lockdown now throughput the school holidays period making it equal for all zones.

    The starting plateau at 65% of ICU occupancy seems high and giving much less chance of hospitals coping if the English or English-South African variant explode.

    I would have preferred to sacrifice in February rather than finding we need an emergency lockdown in March or April because the opportunity was not taken to try to reduce the plateau now.

  2. Correct Karen and a lot of French agree with you. So come March the virus will be rampant again. I wonder if the schoolboy that announced it will be one of it’s victims.

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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.