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COVID-19

What could the French government decide at today’s Covid-19 health council?

Top French ministers will hold a health council meeting on the Covid-19 health crisis on Monday and could decide on further measures that may impact how the country celebrates Christmas.

Customers at a bar in Saint-Malo, northwest France, have their digital health passes scanned by a police officer
Photo: Jean-Francois Monier / AFP

UPDATE: You can read about the measures taken by the government, including the closure of nightclubs, in this new article HERE.

The article below is now out of date.

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France’s conseil de défense sanitaire was due to meet on Monday morning to discuss responses to the fifth wave of Covid-19 currently raging in France.

The government is considering adapting public health measures in light of the latest figures – more than 11,500 people are now hospitalised with the virus, including 2,066 in intensive care. The influential Pasteur Institute has forecast that the number of Covid patients in ICU could pass 3,000 by December 12th.

READ ALSO France records 50,000 daily Covid cases as hospital admissions rise

The situation now

“A patient is admitted to intensive care every 10 minutes. We have experienced this during the second, the third wave,” Health Minister Olivier Véran told franceinfo on Friday. “If nothing changes, we could have a peak at the end of January, with a very large number of seriously ill people.” 

Monday’s health council meeting at the Elysee Palace will determine “whether additional measures should be taken”, to contain this latest outbreak in the lead-up to Christmas, amid additional concern over the Omicron variant.

What’s up for discussion?

Monday’s meeting is mainly intended to be a ‘progress report’, an unnamed source told Le Monde, ‘with perhaps some adjustments here and there’. So, no major changes are in store.

The key focus is on continuing the vaccination push, on getting more people to come forward for a third dose to create what Véran described last week as the ‘firewall effect’.

“What was decided nearly 10 days ago was the right decision to take,” Macron said on Friday, during a trip to the United Arab Emirates. “The strategy we have today allows us to resist. We must continue to vaccinate, to vaccinate, to vaccinate, to respect the barrier gestures as we do.”

The option of starting the school holidays early, in light of the decision in neighbouring Belgium to take this course of action, is also up for discussion – though it is believed the weight of opinion is not in favour of the move.

Meanwhile, opening immunisation to all children aged between five and 11 – not just those who, for various reasons, are considered health risks, is also expected to be up for discussion, according to the Ministry of Health, which mentions the announcement of a “precise timetable” after the meeting.

The ministry confirmed that “the opening of vaccination to all children” of this age group is planned “from the beginning of January 2022”. 

What’s not on the agenda

A return to routine working from home to contain the epidemic is believed not to be on the agenda. According to France Info radio, the possibility of lockdown – or even a curfew – is not up for discussion, nor are limits on the number of people in indoor venues. 

An Elysee Palace adviser told France Info that many more doses of vaccine will get to pharmacies, surgeries and vaccine centres this week. “The challenge is to see what last levers we can activate without placing constraints on vaccinated people,” the adviser said. 

Those sentiments echoed those of Véran, who advised more of the same on Friday: “If we change our daily behaviour, if we recreate a little social distancing, we can reduce by 10%, 15%, 20% the circulation of the virus, and then it totally changes the curves.”

Expect, then, encouragement and a warning after today’s meeting. The government wants to encourage the French to get their booster dose, and reiterate the importance of barrier gestures, such as wearing face masks in public places. It doesn’t want to spoil Christmas.

READ ALSO ‘We need to be careful’: Will France have a normal Christmas this year?

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COVID-19

Will France’s Covid-19 health pass be consigned to the past?

France suspended but did not cancel the Covid pass in March - but the government has suggested it might not return, even with the country in the grip of the virus’s seventh wave

Will France's Covid-19 health pass be consigned to the past?

Cases of Covid-19 in France have risen 57.8 percent in the past week with daily cases topping the 200,000 mark on Tueday.

The virus’s seventh wave has the country in its grip – but it seems the government has no plans to reintroduce vaccine pass measures.

READ ALSO How serious will France’s seventh wave of Covid-19 be?

The vaccine pass –  itself a two-month development of the old health pass which had been required for entry to certain venues such as bars, restaurants and cafes – was suspended on March 14th, as cases of Covid-19 in France fell. But the health emergency law that enforced it was still in effect and allowed it to be reactivated at any time.

That law runs out on July 31st. Now, it seems the pass will not return. Reports in the French press last month claimed that the health ministry was discussing the possibility of re-imposing some form of pass sanitaire, a bill intended to replace the current health emergency laws makes no mention of it. 

The new president of the National Assembly, Yaël Braun-Pivet, confirmed this week that the vaccine pass was not included in the new bill, entitled “health monitoring and security”, which will be submitted to the National Assembly for debate from July 11 and will, if passed, come into law on August 1st – the day after the current law expires.

“[It] is not what is planned in the text of the law that will be submitted to parliament this week,” Braun-Pivet said.

Rather, the bill extends epidemic surveillance and contact case identification systems until March 31st, 2023. 

The second provides for the implementation of border control measures – such as requiring visitors to France to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative test – if a so-called variant of concern were to spread rapidly abroad, as confirmed by new government spokesman Olivier Véran. 

Currently, most health rules in place at the height of the pandemic have been relaxed. Masks are only required in French hospitals, health centres and places that have vulnerable residents such as nursing homes. They are also recommended in crowded spaces where it is impossible to practice social distancing.

READ ALSO French public urged to wear face masks again on public transport

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