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French insurance giant agrees to pay €300m to restaurants over Covid closures

French insurance giant Axa said on Thursday that it would pay €300 million to some 15,000 restaurants fighting to have at least part of their losses due to Covid lockdowns covered by their policies.

French insurance giant agrees to pay €300m to restaurants over Covid closures
Restaurants had taken the insurer to court over their refusal to pay out. Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP

The agreement comes as Axa has faced several lawsuits from restaurant owners saying the insurer is trying to back out of its contractual obligations, putting their livelihoods at risk.

Most of the lawsuits so far have been successful.

“I’m sorry about all that has happened, because we were at odds with restaurants over a misunderstanding,” Axa’s chief executive Thomas Buberl told Europe 1 radio, noting that some appeals courts rulings had been in Axa’s favour.

“We’re offering a settlement to lots of people who haven’t asked for anything, even those who have lost in court will be able to be part of it,” he said.

Restaurants were allowed to start serving patrons indoors on Wednesday for the first time since October, as France emerges from a third coronavirus lockdown.

The government has unlocked billions of euros in aid for restaurants and other businesses forced to close in a bid to slow contagion rates.

But industry officials say thousands of eateries are facing huge debt piles and the prospect of crimped revenues in the months to come since capacity levels remain capped for now.

Axa’s clients sought relief via their policies that covered “administrative closures” for a variety of reasons, including health shutdowns.

Axa refused, citing a clause specifying that any shutdown had to apply only to the individual restaurant covered, which excluded closures due to a generalised health emergency.

The company says some 1,500 suits have been filed, the first by the Parisian restaurateur Stephane Manigold, who obtained €70,000 in May 2020 to cover losses at his Michelin two-star Maison Rostang and three other restaurants.

“This response is not compensation, it’s a transaction,” Buberl added.

“We want to accompany our restaurant clients during this reopening period, and it’s important to put this difficulty behind us,” he said.

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HEALTH

Reader Question: Can I get a third Covid booster shot in France?

As France launches its autumn vaccine campaign, almost half of those eligible for the second booster jab in France have already received it. This has left some wondering whether they could qualify for a third booster, using the new dual-strain vaccines.

Reader Question: Can I get a third Covid booster shot in France?

Question: I’m in my 70s and I had my second booster back in the summer but now I see that the new dual-strain vaccines are available – should I be getting an extra booster with the new type of vaccine?

French health authorities launched the autumn booster campaign on October 3rd includes newly authorised dual-strain vaccines – such as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine adapted to BA.1, the Moderna vaccine adapted to BA.1, and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine adapted to BA.4/5 – which are designed to combat the Omicron variant.

It will be followed by the seasonal flu vaccination campaign in mid October.

READ MORE: When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters this autumn in France

In France, about 6.3 million people have received a second booster dose, “or 41 percent of the eligible population,” said the Directorate General of Health (DGS) to Ouest France.

Currently only those in high risk groups are eligible for a second booster shot, including pregnant women, the elderly those with medical conditions or carers – find the full list here.

As almost half of the eligible population have already received a fourth vaccine, many are wondering whether they will be eligible for a fifth (or third booster) in order to access the new dual-strain vaccine.  

According to Virginie, a representative from HAS – France’s health authority – the organisation “no longer thinks in terms of doses for high-risk people and immunocompromised patients.”

Specifically, the HAS recommends that a new injection be given – and if possible one of the dual-strain vaccines – “regardless of the number of injections received up to now”.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Who qualifies for a second Covid vaccine booster in France?

However, French health authorities specified that the additional booster should “respect the minimum recommended time between two doses.”

“This depends based on your profile – for people aged 80 and over, residents of nursing homes or long-term care units (USLD) and those who are immunocompromised, the wait-time is three months between jabs. For the others, the delay is set at six months.”

For those who have already been infected by Covid-19, the HAS recommends that if you are eligible for a second (or third booster) that the additional dose “is still recommended, with a minimum delay of three months after infection.”

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