French government set to announce new restrictions as Covid cases rise

The French government spokesman has announced that consultations are ongoing on tightening restrictions as Covid cases rise, with a press conference scheduled.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal.
French government spokesman Gabriel Attal. Photo: Thomas Coex/AFP

Speaking after a meeting of the Defence Council, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said consultations are currently ongoing on the new measures with local representatives and other sectors.

He announced that health minister Olivier Véran will hold a press conference on Thursday to detail the new measures.

He did not give details on what the new measures would involve, but said it would include “reinforcement of barrier gestures and mask-wearing” and increased checks on the use of the health pass.

The government is also expected to announce an acceleration of the booster shot programme for the Covid vaccine.

“We need a collective mobilisation … to save the holiday season” said Attal.

Cases are rising rapidly in France with a daily average of 18,000 new cases, an 84 percent increase on the previous week. Rates of hospitalisations and deaths, while still low, have also seen a 35 and 54 percent rise respectively over the past week.

READ ALSO What is behind the explosion of Covid cases in France?

Attal added that the national incidence rate is expected to reach 200 cases per 100,000 people “by tomorrow or the day after”.

This will likely trigger extra restrictions in ski resorts, where the Prime Minister Jean Castex had previously said that the health pass would only be required for ski lifts if the national incidence rate tops 200.

Other than that, there is no automatic change of rules with the 200 incidence rate, but it is clearly concerning the government.

Other measures previously discussed have included bring back mask rules for all indoor public spaces – including those like bars, cafés and cinemas where the health pass is in use – and expanding vaccine boosters to the over 40s.

READ ALSO What can we expect as the French government battles fifth Covid wave

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Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France’s disabilities minister

France's disabilities minister will not face a new inquiry "as things stand" over a rape allegation that surfaced just after his nomination by President Emmanuel Macron last week, prosecutors have said, citing the anonymity of the alleged victim.

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France's disabilities minister

Damien Abad has faced growing pressure to resign after the news website Mediapart reported the assault claims by two women dating from over a decade ago, which he has denied.

One of the women, identified only by her first name, Margaux, filed a rape complaint in 2017 that was later dismissed by prosecutors.

The other woman, known only as Chloe, told Mediapart that in 2010 she had blacked out after accepting a glass of champagne from Abad at a bar in Paris, and woke up in her underwear in pain with him in a hotel room. She believes she may have been drugged.

She did not file an official complaint, but the Paris prosecutors’ office said it was looking into the case after being informed by the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics, a group formed by members of France’s MeToo movement.

“As things stand, the Paris prosecutors’ office is not following up on the letter” from the observatory, it said, citing “the inability to identify the victim of the alleged acts and therefore the impossibility of proceeding to a hearing.”

In cases of sexual assault against adults, Paris prosecutors can open an inquiry only if an official complaint is made, meaning the victim must give their identity.

Abad has rejected the calls to resign in order to ensure the new government’s “exemplarity,” saying that he is innocent and that his own condition of arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his joints, means sexual relations can occur only with the help of a partner.

The appointment of Abad as minister for solidarities and people with disabilities in a reshuffle last Friday was seen as a major coup for Macron, as the 42-year-old had defected from the right-wing opposition.

The new prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, said she was unaware of the allegations before Abad’s nomination, but insisted that “If there is new information, if a new complaint is filed, we will draw all the consequences.”

The claims could loom large over parliamentary elections next month, when Macron is hoping to secure a solid majority for his reformist agenda. Abad will be standing for re-election in the Ain department north of Lyon.