Three million people book vaccinations in France as Macron announces Covid restrictions

Three million people book vaccinations in France as Macron announces Covid restrictions
Medical staff prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Photo: STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP.
Record numbers of French people sought to book appointments for Covid-19 vaccinations after President Emmanuel Macron announced a slew of measures on Monday designed to push sceptics to get themselves jabbed.

Almost 3.2 million people have signed up for their first dose since Macron’s TV address on Monday, according to calculations by Le Parisien. 2.6 million have taken appointments using the Doctolib website alone, of which 62 percent were under 35 years old.

In an address to the nation, Macron announced that from next month anyone wanting to go out to eat or drink, take a long-distance train or visit a shopping centre will need to show either proof of vaccination or a negative test.

The pass sanitaire (health passport)  will also be needed to attend a festival, a theatre show or a cinema screening as part of the government’s strategy to tackle the surging number of new cases linked to the Delta variant.

The vaccine will also be compulsory from September 15th for healthcare workers and people who volunteer with the elderly or vulnerable.

“You will have understood that vaccination is not obligatory straight away, but we are going to extend the health pass to its maximum to encourage as many of you as possible to get yourselves vaccinated,” Macron said.

The prospect of having to take a test for every meal or drink out appeared to have an instant impact on many unvaccinated people, with the main websites used to book appointments for a jab reporting a surge in visits.

READ ALSO France to tackle fourth Covid wave with stricter border controls, health passports and compulsory vaccines

The Doctolib site reported what it said was a record 20,000 appointments being taken every minute on Monday evening.

In total, 926,000 people made a vaccine appointment on Monday, most of them after 8pm, which was when Macron addressed the nation.

Covid tests, which are currently free, will have to be paid for from September “to encourage vaccination instead of taking many tests,” Macron added.

The huge surge in bookings prompted many French people to joke that only the threat of being barred from restaurants of cafés was enough to persuade the French to get vaccinated.

The below joke roughly translates as –

The French

‘You risk dying’

‘I don’t give a flying fuck’

‘You won’t be able to go to bistros’

‘Ok, injection in the buttock or the arm?’

Mandatory jabs

Macron also announced mandatory vaccinations for healthcare staff, retirement home workers and others working with vulnerable people from September in line with similar moves in Greece, Italy and Britain.

Health Minister Olivier Véran said that from September unvaccinated staff would not be allowed to work and would not be paid.

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“Our country is facing a surge in the epidemic across our territory, in mainland France as well as overseas,” Macron said at the start of his address.

“The situation is under control, but if we do not act now the number of cases will increase significantly and will lead to a rise in
hospitalisations,” he said.

Calendar: France tightens the rules ahead of fourth wave of covid

Around 35.5 million people – just over half of France’s population – have received at least one vaccine dose so far, but the rate of injections has slowed in recent weeks.

At the start of the pandemic, France had some of the highest levels of vaccine scepticism in the developed world.

Full vaccination

The announcements represent a change in direction for the government after several months of progressively lifting restrictions and they underline the concern about the potential impact of a fourth wave of infections.

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

“We need to head towards vaccinating every French person because it’s the only way of returning to a normal way of life,” Macron added, saying that the idea of making the jab mandatory for everyone would need to be studied.

The Delta strain of Covid-19, believed to be around 60 percent more infectious, already accounts for half of new infections in France.

The number of new cases in France has jumped to above 4,000 a day, according to the latest available official figures, although the number of deaths in hospital – four in the past 24 hours – is low.

Around 7,000 people with Covid are in hospital in France, around a quarter of the peak of the third wave in March-April.

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  1. If the vaccinations are so effective, the unvaccinated are only risking their own health. If they’re not effective, why the compulsion ?

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