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COVID-19 VACCINES

French scientists warn high Covid-19 vaccine rate needed to stop Delta

A panel of scientists who advise the French government on health warned Friday that as many as 95 percent of people might need to be vaccinated to dam the spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19.

French scientists warn high Covid-19 vaccine rate needed to stop Delta
French scientists warn high vaccine rate needed to stop Delta. Photo: MARTIN BUREAU / AFP

With cases rising, “a fourth wave linked to the Delta variant could hit swiftly, with repercussions for the health system despite high levels of vaccination”, the Scientific Council said.

“We can’t get the epidemic under control unless 90 to 95 percent of people are vaccinated or infected,” they added.

So far only around half of French people have received a first dose and 40 percent two shots, with the government aiming to get two-thirds – 35 million – fully protected by the end of August.

“If people wait until after the summer holidays to get vaccinated, it will be too late,” epidemiologist and Scientific Council member Arnaud Fontanet told broadcaster RTL, recalling that the shots are “very effective and free of charge”.

With case numbers rising after a series of reopening steps, President Emmanuel Macron is expected to outline next moves in managing the pandemic in a Monday evening TV address.

READ ALSO: Macron to give TV address to France on Monday

On the agenda at a meeting of France’s defence council earlier Monday is whether to make vaccination compulsory for health workers, one of the key recommendations from the scientists.

Ministers could agree on a draft law as early as Tuesday before sending it to parliament.

The Scientific Council also urged strengthening the country’s track and trace programme and highlighted rising numbers of hospitalisations due to the Delta variant – first detected in India – in England, Scotland, Ireland and Portugal.

The strain already accounts for half of new infections in France and is believed to be around 60 percent more infectious.

“Without infection control measures, there could be a similar peak in hospitalisations to the one in autumn 2020,” the Pasteur Institute research organisation warned, adding that unvaccinated over-60s remained especially at risk.

Other scientific advice included reducing the number of people allowed to attend events, localised restrictions and reducing the time between the first and second doses of mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna from six to three or four weeks.

READ ALSO: ANALYSIS: What lies behind the slowing of vaccination rates in France?

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COVID-19 VACCINES

More than 100,000 protest Macron’s plan to ‘piss off the unvaccinated’

More than 100,000 people across France protested on Saturday over what they say are government plans to further restrict the rights of the unvaccinated.

More than 100,000 protest Macron's plan to 'piss off the unvaccinated'
Demonstrators hold a banner reading " The youth piss off the vaccine front " during a protest against the health pass on Saturday. Photo: Christophe Archambault/AFP

The protest came only days after French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to “piss off” those refusing the jab.

The turnout was four times higher than the numbers who answered the December 18 call to protest, when 25,500 people marched across the country, according to government estimates.

The protests oppose a planned law that will require individuals to prove they are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus before they can eat out, travel on inter-city trains or attend cultural events.

On Thursday, France’s lower house of parliament passed the controversial bill in a first reading. The government has said it expects the new requirements to be implemented by January 15, although lawmakers in the Senate could now delay the process.

About 18,000 protesters gathered in Paris. Photo: Christophe Archambault/AFP

Interior ministry officials said 105,200 people participated in Saturday’s protests across France, 18,000 of them in the capital Paris, where police reported 10 arrests and three officers slightly injured. Elsewhere there were 24 arrests and seven police officers lightly injured according to the ministry.

Among the larger demonstrations, around 6,000 demonstrators turned out in Toulon, while in Montpellier police used teargas during clashes with protesters.

READ ALSO: 

France recorded 303,669 new coronavirus cases on Saturday amid mounting pressure on hospitals.

The Paris protesters, many of them unmasked, braved the cold and rain brandishing placards emblazoned with the word “truth” and “No to vaccine passes”.

Others took aim at Macron, using the same coarse language he employed in his attack on people holding out against vaccination earlier in the week.

Macron said Friday that he fully stands by controversial remarks he made on Tuesday, when he vowed to “piss off” people not vaccinated against Covid-19 until they accept shots.

The earthy language and uncompromising approach provoked uproar in French media and from opponents.

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