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HEALTH

Weekend lockdown begins in Nice, French Riviera and Dunkirk

From Saturday, the northern city of Dunkirk, along with Nice and the French Riviera, is subject to a weekend lockdown after a spike in Covid numbers.

Weekend lockdown begins in Nice, French Riviera and Dunkirk

Health Minister Olivier Véran announced a new weekend lockdown for a Dunkirk on a trip to the northern port town on Wednesday.

“The epidemic is worsening across the country,” Véran said.

Infections have reached worrying levels in several parts of the country, spokesman Gabriel Attal told reporters earlier on Wednesday after a weekly cabinet meeting.

The warning came only days after the French Riviera was ordered into lockdown for the coming two weekends to contain Covid-19 which has been spreading faster in the tourist hotspot than elsewhere in France, and border controls were tightened.

Attal said similar moves could become necessary elsewhere because of “a worsening situation” that he said “requires rapid and strong measures”.

The northern coastal city of Dunkirk was expected to be on the list for fresh restrictions after the infection rate there went over 900 for 100,000 people, close to nine times the national average.

READ ALSO Regional lockdowns – where next and will they work?

Around 10 of France’s 101 départements were in a “very worrying situation”, Attal said.

He did not name the départements, but the ones with the highest incidence rate currently are; Alpes Maritimes, Bouches-du-Rhône, Moselle, Nord, Oise, Pas-de-Calais, Paris, Seine-et-Marne, Somme, Var, Essonne, Seine-Saint-Denis and Val-de-Marne.

All these départements have an infection rate higher than 250 per 100,000 inhabitants.

“We must continue all our efforts to avoid having to impose another national lockdown,” he said.

There was “obviously” no certainty that such a drastic measure could be avoided, he said, warning that the government would not hesitate to order such a move if it was deemed necessary.

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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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