Authority in south west France delays lifting Covid-19 health restrictions amid Delta variant fears

Residents in the south west France will have to wait at least another week before Covid-19 restrictions are lifted amid concern over the spread of the Delta variant of the virus.

Authority in south west France delays lifting Covid-19 health restrictions amid Delta variant fears
French Prime Minister Jean Castex and Health Minister Olivier Véran visited the Landes last week. Photo: Gaizka Iroz | AFP

On the day the rest of metropolitan France took a fourth step out of lockdown, authorities in the Landes département announced they were maintaining restriction levels in place since June 9th.

The final step sees a number of restrictions lifted around large events and crowds and also passes responsibility back to local authorities on issues such as restrictions for bars, cafés and festivals.

Across France, health trends are going in the right direction, with case numbers and hospitalisations continuing to fall – but the situation has stalled somewhat in the Landes, on the south west Atlantic coast of the country. 

As a result, the Préfet has decided to keep the existing restrictions in place until at least July 6th – depending on the local health situation.

“The situation is stabilised, with an incidence rate which oscillates around 50 cases per 100,00 people.

“It is not particularly serious, but it is particularly atypical compared to the rest of France,”  Préfet Cécile Bigot-Dekeyzer said at a press conference on Wednesday, a week after Prime Minister Jean Castex and Health Minister Olivier Véran had visited the department as cases rose.

The recorded incidence rate in the Landes on Tuesday, June 29th was 48 cases per 100,000 residents, according to France’s Covid Tracker website – below the alert threshold of 50, but well above the national average of 19.

Meanwhile, half of the total French population has received a first dose of vaccine. In total, 33.5 million people have received a first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, and 22.8 million, or 32.4 percent of the population, are fully vaccinated.

Despite the falling Covid-19 numbers, concern over the spread of the contagious Delta variant remains. It now counts for 20 percent of new cases in France and “is gradually becoming dominant,” warned Véran on Franceinfo on Tuesday.

ALSO READ: Delta variant: Is France heading for another Covid surge as seen in the UK?

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French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

After the seismic decision of the US Supreme Court on Friday, French MPs are calling for the right to abortion in France to be protected by the constitution.

French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

Lawmakers from French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party are to propose a parliamentary bill on Saturday that would enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution. 

The move comes after the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” decision on Friday.

“In France we guarantee and advance the rights of women. We protect them,” said Aurore Bergé – the head of Renaissance in the Assemblée nationale and one of the key sponsors of the bill. 

Another co-sponsor, Marie-Pierre Rixain tweeted: “What happens in elsewhere cannot happen in France. We must protect the right to abortion for future generations. 

In 2018 and 2019, Emmanuel Macron’s party – which back then was known as La République en Marche – refused to back bills proposed by left-wing party, La France Insoumise, to enshrine abortion rights into the constitution. 

In a Saturday interview with France Inter, Bergé suggested that the success of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National during parliamentary elections earlier this month had created a sense of newfound urgency. 

She described the far-right MPs as “fierce opponents of women’s access to abortion” and said it was important “to take no risk” in securing it. 

READ MORE France’s Macron condemns US abortion ruling

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has come out in support of the bill. 

The left-wing opposition block, NUPES, also backs it and had planned to propose an identical piece legislation of its own on Monday. 

Macron is seeking parliamentary allies to pass reforms after his formation lost its majority in legislative elections earlier this month.

The legal timeframe to terminate a pregnancy in France was extended from 12 to 14 weeks in the last legislature.

Changing the constitution requires the National Assembly and Senate to adopt the same text, then a three-fifths majority of parliament sitting in congress. The other option is a referendum.