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Covid cases rise as French MPs agree to extend health pass

As French MPs agreed to the extension of health pass legislation until July 2022, the country has reported a slight but sustained rise in the number of Covid cases.

Covid cases in France are showing a slight rise.
Covid cases in France are showing a slight rise. Photo: Theo Ruby/AFP

MPs in the Assemblée nationale on Wednesday agreed to the extension of health pass legislation.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the pass itself will be in use until then – there is already discussion on phasing it out by area or by sector from November – but that it could be reintroduced without further parliamentary debate if needed.

The debate in the Assemblée nationale came as France reported a slight but sustained rise in case numbers, after two months of steadily falling cases.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal, speaking on RTL radio, urged caution, saying that the virus was “once again gaining ground”.

“For several weeks, the situation has improved significantly in our country, thanks to the efforts of the French, the deployment of vaccination,” he said. “But what we’re seeing is that for a little less than a week, the trend seems to have reversed and the epidemic is regaining ground.”

He qualified that the increase was low and that it was too early to speculate on whether this is the beginning of a fifth wave.

Case numbers in France had for two months been showing a steady decrease, with a corresponding decrease in hospital admissions and deaths – the latest data shows a daily average of 4,649 new cases a day, with 1,049 Covid patients in intensive care and 41 deaths in the 24 hours preceding October 18th.

Graph showing positive tests recorded in France from August 2021 to October. Graph: covidtracker.fr

However the last week has shown a slight but steady increase, with a daily average of cases up 10 percent on the previous week.

The graph above, from Le Parisien journalist Nicolas Berrod, shows the incidence rate – cases per 100,000 people – from March to October 2021, with cases falling in June, spiking again over the summer as the delta variant hit, and then falling from August – as the health pass was introduced and widespread vaccination took effect.

The majority of areas of France still have an incidence rate of below 50 cases, per 100,000 people – as the map below shows – but this week the département of Lozère was forced to reinstate mask-wearing in primary schools after its incidence rate rose above 50. Experts have cautioned, however, that the sparsely-populated nature of Lozère can mean that a slight increase in case numbers can dramatically affect the incidence rate.

Incidence rate by département, with départements in green under 50 cases per 100,000. Map: Covidtracker.fr

As well as looking to extend the period that the health pass is in use, France has also begun its booster campaign for vaccines amid increasing evidence that the effectiveness of Covid vaccines wanes over time.

People in high risk groups such as the elderly or ill can now get a booster shot six months after their last dose – meaning that anyone in a high risk group vaccinated before mid April is now eligible for a booster.

READ ALSO How to get your Covid booster shot

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HEALTH

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.

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