France’s overseas territories across the globe, but especially the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe, are seeing sky-rocketing virus cases and hospitalisations amid vaccination rates that are dramatically lower than on the mainland.
“On these territories the vaccination is still at a very low rate, a third that of mainland France. Just 20 percent of people over the age of 12 are double vaccinated compared with 66 percent in mainland France,” Macron told a meeting of senior health officials.
“It is an urgent scenario. If we needed proof that the vaccination is the best response to the (faster-spreading) Delta variant, unfortunately these places have provided, if I can put it this way, a cruel proof,” he told the meeting of France’s Defence Council, which he chaired via videolink from the presidential summer residence in the south of France.
He added: “There is an explosion of serious illness (in the Caribbean). The situation is dramatic and requires solidarity from the entire nation.”
French Overseas Territories Minister Sebastien Lecornu told AFP on Tuesday before heading to the area that Guadeloupe was seeing over 1,700 cases for 100,000 inhabitants and Martinique 1,165.
The below chart from Le Parisien reporter Nicolas Berrod shows the incidence rate in mainland France, compared to Martinique and Gaudeloupe.
Tous âges confondus, on atteint en Guadeloupe (et en Martinique) des niveaux inédits pour un département/territoire français.
— Nicolas Berrod (@nicolasberrod) August 10, 2021
Macron has faced four consecutive weekends of street protests over the implementation of a health pass that means people need to be double vaccinated — or recently tested or recovered — to visit a cafe or travel on an inter-city train.
But with hospitalisations again rising in France as it battles a fourth wave, Macron said that the health pass, which is aimed at encouraging people to get vaccinated, was the only way forward.
“No sector can act as if as nothing is happening… We have no other choice, it was that or closing down the country with new curfews and lockdowns,” he said.
“The health crisis is not finished. We will live with this virus for several more months.”