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BORDEAUX

Race to vaccinate in Bordeaux as rare variant detected

The city of Bordeaux in southwestern France will fast-track vaccinations for residents in one neighbourhood after nearly 50 people tested positive for a "very rare" variant of Covid-19, health authorities told AFP late Friday.

Race to vaccinate in Bordeaux as rare variant detected
A woman is vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against the coronavirus at the new vaccination centre at the Parc des Expositions in Bordeaux, southwestern France, on April 8th, 2021. Philippe LOPEZ / AFP

All adult residents of the city’s northern Bacalan neighbourhood would be granted “unconditional” access to jabs, “this weekend or at worst early next week”, said Patrick Dehail, medical advisor to the regional health authority.

“We are working with the (health) ministry to obtain the extra doses required,” Dehail said, adding that the boosted local effort will then be expanded to the wider Bordeaux area.
 
“We are talking about a variant that has already been identified at the national level but which has been very rare until now,” he added.
 
At least 46 people have been infected with the variant in the Bordeaux neighbourhood, with mass testing launched Friday to track down further cases.

None of those infected so far have been hospitalised.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to book an appointment for the Covid-19 vaccine in France

Labelled VOC 20I/484Q, the strain is related to the British variant of Covid-19, but with an additional mutation.

This mutation, (E484K), is also carried by the South African and Brazilian variants and is suspected of reducing the immunity acquired by either a past infection or by some vaccines.

However, Dehail said there was as yet “no reason” to suggest that the variant is resistant to mRNA vaccines such as those made by Pfizer or Moderna, or that it causes a more serious form of Covid-19.

The variant has been detected in the northern Paris region as well as Bordeaux in southwest France.

In France as a whole, vaccinations have so far been limited to the over-50s, although people outside this age group can book unused slots advertised at short notice. All adults will be eligible for vaccinations in France from May 31st.

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COVID-19

Where in France do you still need a face mask?

In France, masks will no longer be required on indoor transport as of Monday, May 16th. Here are rules and recommendations that are still in place:

Where in France do you still need a face mask?

Members of the public in France have been asked to wear face masks for the most part of two years, at times even outside in the street.

Since March 14th, 2022, the facial coverings have no longer been mandatory in most establishments such as shops, and as of Monday, May 16th, it will no longer be mandatory on indoor public transport. 

As of May 16th, you will therefore no longer be required to wear a mask in the following transports:

  • Buses and coaches
  • Subways and streetcars
  • RER and TER
  • TGV and interregional lines
  • Taxis

Regarding airplanes whether or not you must wear a mask is a bit more complicated.

On Wednesday, May 11th, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announced that from May 16th onward it would no longer be required to wear a mask in airports and on board aircraft in the European Union. However, Germany has stated that it does not have the intention of lifting its requirement of wearing a mask on its airlines – this would include the Lufthansa airline. Thus, it will be necessary for passengers to still very to rules each airline has in place, which could be the case when travelling to a country that still has indoor mask requirements in place.

EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky specified that vulnerable people should continue to wear masks, and that “a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, to reassure those seated nearby.”

Masks still obligatory in medical settings

However, it will still be mandatory for caregivers, patients and visitors in health care facilities, specifically including hospitals, pharmacies, medical laboratories, retirement homes, and establishments for the disabled. 

For people who are vulnerable either due to their age or their status as immunocompromised, wearing a mask will continue to be recommended, though not required, particularly for enclosed spaces and in large gatherings.

Masks are also still recommended for people who test positive, people who might have come in contact with Covid-19, symptomatic people and healthcare professionals.

Will masks come back?

It is possible. French Health Minister Olivier Véran does not exclude the return of mandatory mask-wearing, should the health situation require it.

What are the other Covid-19 restrictions that remain in place?

The primary restriction that has not changed is the French government’s regulation for testing positive: If you are unvaccinated and test positive, isolation is still required for 10 days, if you are vaccinated, this requirement is seven days. Isolation can be reduced from 10 to 7 days or from 7 to 5 days if a negative covid test is performed, and symptoms are no longer present.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What Covid restrictions remain in place in France?

The French Health Ministry still recommends following sanitary measures such as: wearing a mask in places where it is still mandatory, hand washing, regular ventilation of rooms, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, and using a single-use handkerchief (tissue).

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