France hits 20 million milestone in Covid vaccination drive

France reached its target of injecting 20 million initial doses of coronavirus vaccines Saturday, days ahead of a hugely anticipated reopening of restaurant terraces, part of an easing of the nationwide lockdown.

France reaches 20 million vaccinations
Photo: Thomas Padilla / POOL / AFP

President Emmanuel Macron announced the milestone in a tweet that said “20 million” with a green checkmark, a number that represents around 30 percent of the population.

Health officials said the exact figure was 20,086,792; with 8,805,345
people having also had a second vaccine dose.

 “It’s a very important moment for the entire country, because it supports our prospects for ending this crisis,” Prime Minister Jean Castex told journalists while visiting the mass vaccination site at the Porte de Versailles conference centre in Paris.

READ ALSO: UPDATED: When will you be eligible for the Covid vaccine in France?

The government aims to have 30 million initial doses injected by June 15th, when President Emmanuel Macron has said all adults will be able to sign up for a jab currently reserved for priority groups and adults over 50.

The vaccination campaign in France is picking up pace as it’s been extended to all over-18s, who can now book a Covid-19 vaccination. That is as long as they can find a vacant slot within the next 24 hours.

“It’s within reach,” Castex said. Authorities also reported further declines in the number of patients requiring intensive care in hospitals.

The number of people in intensive care continued to fall Saturday, with the latest figures showing fewer than 4,271 – down from 4,352 the previous day.

That is well below the peak of 6,001 during the “third wave” of infections that battered France starting in March.

On Wednesday, museums, theatres, cinemas and concert halls will reopen with limited capacity after six weeks of closure to halt the pandemic, and the nationwide curfew will be pushed back to 9pm from 7pm.

READ ALSO: Covid-19: Will it be safe to return to France’s cafe terraces?

Non-essential shops will also reopen and outdoor seating at cafes and restaurants will be allowed for the first time since October 30th.

Cafes and restaurants will be able to serve clients indoors on June 9th, and the curfew will be fully lifted on June 30th if infection rates continue to decline.

By this date, the limits on establishments receiving public – such as restaurants, bars, cinemas and museums – might disappear, depending on the local health situation.

The government has previously said it favours following local guidelines, allowing for more activities in areas with a lower spread of infection.

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France’s monkeypox count rises to 277 as first woman contracts virus

France has detected 277 cases of monkeypox, health authorities said Tuesday, June 21st, including the first case in the country of a woman contracting the virus.

France's monkeypox count rises to 277 as first woman contracts virus

The case numbers have risen steeply since the last official figure of 183 cases five days earlier. But there have been no deaths in France attributed to monkeypox.

The normal initial symptoms of monkeypox include a high fever, swollen lymph nodes and a blistery chickenpox-like rash.

Until recently, the viral disease had generally been confined to Western and Central Africa but is now present in several continents, particularly Europe.

Among the latest cases recorded in France, “a first female case has been confirmed, the mode of transmission of which is currently being investigated, and all the others are men,” the French national public health agency said in a statement.

So far, the recent outbreak of monkeypox, which is currently affecting some 40 countries, has mainly affected men who have engaged in gay sex.

The World Health Organization is due to hold an emergency meeting on Thursday to determine whether to classify the global monkeypox outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern.

The virus usually clears up after two or three weeks.

Most of the cases identified in France have been found in Paris and its suburbs, though smaller outbreaks have been seen in several regions throughout the country, including Normandy in the north and the Cote d’Azur in the south.

The first monkeypox case in France was discovered on May 20, the same day the virus was detected in neighbouring Germany.