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VACCINES

France breaks daily vaccination record as Covid rules are tightened in schools

France has broken its daily record for vaccinations, the health minister has announced as rules are tightened in schools amid a surge of cases among pupils.

Covid vaccine
SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

On Friday Health Minister Olivier Véran announced that a record total of 400,000 vaccinations had been administered between Thursday and Friday evenings. Add this to the total of the last few days and it means that one million jabs have been given in France, in just three days.

Meanwhile, the number of new coronavirus cases in children under 15 has accelerated sharply over the past week, the Sante Publique France health authority said on Friday forcing the government to tighten Covid measures in schools.

Schools across the country remain open, though individual classes in départements under partial lockdown will now close if just one student tests positive, instead of three previously.

“That will necessarily mean more class closures in the coming days,” Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said Friday, calling outright school closures to slow the virus a “last resort.”

Blanquer also said school canteens, which have been partly blamed for the spread of the virus in schools, could also close but on a case by case basis.

All pupils over 6 years old must wear masks in schools in France apart from in the canteen and when playing outside.

The French health authority also said on Friday that dentists and vets in France should be allowed to join the fight against Covid-19 and administer vaccination jabs.

This is partly due to the fact that France’s supply of doses will increase significantly from next month.

The Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS) said in a statement that the health ministry had asked it to find new ways of bringing other types of health workers into the vaccination campaign, so as not to cause further delays, reported Reuters.

“The growing supply of doses will allow vaccination at a larger scale from April and will require the mobilisation of a greater number of competent professionals to quickly vaccinate the relevant people,” the HAS said.

As well as dentists and vets, HAS suggested that pharmacists, medical students, lab technicians, and other healthcare professionals also be authorised to give the Covid-19 vaccines.

This would mean an extra 250,000 medical staff could be added to French vaccination campaign, greatly increasing the number of people who will be vaccinated and the speed at which it will be done.

So far, France has administered around 7 million doses of the vaccine, according to the latest government data. This means that around 10.70 percent of the French population has received at least one dose of the vaccine.

This is in stark contrast to the UK, where over 30 million doses have been given and around half of the population has received at least their first jab.

However, the two countries were on a similar level for second doses, the rate in France being 3.90 percent and the UK’s around 4.80 percent. This is partly because France is waiting 3-4 weeks between the first and second doses, while in the UK, they are waiting 12 weeks between vaccines.

France’s main challenges have been the supply of vaccines and the availability of medical staff. This has led to great difficulty in securing appointments at vaccine centres.

The French government aims to vaccinate 10 million people by mid-April, 20 million by mid-May and 30 million by the summer.

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COVID-19

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.

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