“We must remain cautious, but not live in fear,” he said in an interview on radio station LCI, as he outlined the government’s path out of the health crisis on the day that France’s cafe terraces reopened – under strict health conditions – for the first time in six months.
In that, he echoed President Emmanuel Macron’s cautious optimism. “If we manage to organise collectively, to continue to vaccinate, to maintain a collective discipline of citizens, there is no reason that we cannot continue to move forward,” Macron said, urging the French to “remain cautious”, even as Covid cases across the country fall steadily.
But Véran added: “I think that in November or December, if there were no new variants … because we will have sufficiently vaccinated we can consider that the epidemic is behind us.
“If things go well, then there we can turn the page on Covid-19.”
The number of Covid-19 hospitalisations is at its lowest level since October 2020, with 22,058 patients being treated across France on Tuesday, May 18th. Of those, 4,015 patients were in intensive care, according to Santé publique France.
“We will remain very vigilant this summer,” Véran said. “We must be sure that vaccination protects us in the long term. We are all, on the planet, in the same boat.
“I am optimistic about the conditions of this reopening. We will see next autumn and winter, if there are further waves or new variants.”
He warned, too, that moving out of lockdown to a more normal life cannot happen overnight.
“We must go gradually. We must limit the risks, be careful with our social contacts, continue to wear masks when required, wash our hands.”
Véran had previously said he “sincerely hopes” wearing masks outside would no longer be necessary this summer – and repeated his upbeat message, but added a note of short-term caution.
“The local authorities have the right to impose, or relax, rules on wearing masks outside,” he said.
“I hope that we will be able to offer French people the option of no longer being obliged to wear a mask. But be careful: this does not mean that there will be no need for masks everywhere outside, in a crowd for example.”
And he welcomed the take-up of vaccines that have prompted the fall in cases of Covid-19.
“A few months ago, at best 40 percent of French people wanted to be vaccinated,” he said.
“We had counted on 60 percent of the French population by age group. We wanted to go up to 70 percent, we’re going to get 80 percent.
“The French don’t believe without having seen, they have doubts – that’s our collective strength. But they do what they need to do to be protected.”