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Macron: French Covid jabs will catch up with Britain ‘in a few weeks’

France will have caught up with Britain on the number of people vaccinated against Covid-19 "in a few weeks", President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview on Sunday amid a row with Britain over vaccine access.

Macron: French Covid jabs will catch up with Britain 'in a few weeks'
French President Emmanuel Macron shows a graph of the Covid-19 vaccine doses, during a press conference after a European Union (EU) summit held over video conference, at The Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris, on March 25, 2021. Photo: BENOIT TESSIER / POOL / AFP

France’s inoculation drive has been criticised as slow, with 11.45 percent of French people having received one or more jabs, compared with 43.79 percent of Britons.

But Macron told Le Journal du Dimanche (JDD) newspaper France had significantly ramped up the pace of vaccinating and suggested Britain’s campaign could face headwinds.

“In a few weeks we will have completely caught up with the British, who will meanwhile be increasingly dependent on us to vaccinate their population,” he said.

His remark appeared to refer to stocks of the Anglo-Swedish vaccine AstraZeneca that are produced in EU member states.

READ ALSO: 6 reasons France’s Covid vaccine rollout has been so slow

The EU has threatened to ban pharma firms from exporting coronavirus vaccines to Britain and other well-supplied countries until they make good on their promised deliveries to the bloc – a threat directed mainly at British-based AstraZeneca.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Friday suggested Britain, which has prioritised getting first vaccine doses to as many people as possible, would struggle to obtain the second doses they needed for full protection.

“The United Kingdom has taken great pride in vaccinating well with the first dose except they have a problem with the second dose,” he told France Info radio.

The row with Britain comes as doctors at Paris hospitals swamped by Covid-19 cases warned they would soon have to start choosing which lives to save.

On Saturday, France recorded an additional 42,619 infections — several times the target of 5,000 daily cases Macron set in late 2020.

The spiralling caseload comes a week after a third of the French population were placed under a loose form of lockdown.

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

In an open letter in the JDD, 41 medics complained that the measures taken by the government to try to tame the third wave were “insufficient” and said they would be at full capacity within two weeks.

“We will be forced to sort patients to try and save as many lives as possible,” they warned, adding they had  “never experienced a situation like this, not even during the worst (terror) attacks of the past few years.”

Meanwhile, growing numbers of schools are temporarily closing classrooms over infections among staff and pupils.

Unlike many of its European neighbours France has kept schools open since last summer.

Pressed on whether he was planning to tighten restrictions, Macron told the weekly: “Nothing has been decided”.

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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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