Castex announced the lifting of two of France’s flagship Covid-19 health measures on Wednesday “without waiting for the [originally planned] date of July 1st.”
He said the Covid-19 epidemic in France has evolved in a positive way that allowed for restrictions and mask rules to be eased. “We have not had such a low level of viral circulation since last August. This improvement concerns the whole territory,” he said.
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“Hospital pressure has finally fallen. This is a particularly positive development, it will allow our carers to take a breath,” he said.
“We are going to lift the obligation to wear face masks outdoors,” he added, after the meeting between President Emmanuel Macron and his top ministers. “Wearing a mask will no longer be compulsory, except in certain circumstances. Prefectoral decrees will be modified tomorrow.”
He described the decision as, “a rule of common sense in view of the evolution of the epidemic situation.”
But, he warned that wearing a mask would remain the rule, “when we get together, when we are in a crowded place – a queue, in a market or in the stands of a stadium”.
They will also continue to be compulsory in closed areas, such as in shops, schools and offices, and on public transport.
And the PM warned that the strict limits for bars, restaurants, sports and cultural establishments would remain in place for now. New rules, which will be applicable from July 1st, will be revealed next week.
The PM said the nationwide nightly curfew that had been in place since October in some parts of France, and mid-December nationally would end on Sunday, rather than June 30th, as had been originally planned.
“This measure met a real need,” he said. “The very good results recorded no longer justify it,” he said.
France’s 7-day incidence rate had fallen to just 40 on Tuesday with the the number of patients in intensive care now under 2,000 after topping 6,000 in April.
Most of the country is now coloured green according to the state health agency’s thresholds for infection. Green means the 7-day incidence rate per 100,000 people was under 50.
After hitting its target of 30million first Covid-19 vaccination doses by mid-June, Castex set a new target, as he warned people not to relax their guard in the battle against the deadly virus.
By the end of August, 40million people in France should have received at least one dose, and 35million should be fully vaccinated, he said.
Of those, 85% of over-50s and people with specific health conditions should have received at least one dose.
He said France was working to improve prevention and surveillance of variants of the virus, notably the Delta variant, which is present in France, though numbers remain low. He said “vaccines are very effective” against them.
In the face of the variants, “Border controls will be further strengthened and adapted, particularly at airports and ports,” he said, without going into further details.
“The challenge for the next few weeks, if we want to protect ourselves from a new wave, is to continue to be vaccinated”, he said. “Vaccination concerns everyone, caregivers, but also young people.”
And he ended the press conference on a positive note.
“We are experiencing a happy return, a return to normal life. We are on the right track. Let us stay mobilised,” he summed up.