What new Covid measures could the French government announce on Friday?

French hospitals are under increasing pressure from the fifth wave of the virus.
French hospitals are under increasing pressure from the fifth wave of the virus. The government may announce new measures on Friday. (Photo by JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP)
A high level meeting pulling together French President Emmanuel Macron, government ministers and scientific advisors will meet on Friday to discuss possible new measures for tackling the Covid pandemic.

An afternoon meeting of France’s Health Defence Council on Friday could herald new Covid restrictions, just as schools are breaking up in France. The meeting had been planned for next week but has been brought forward in what many commentators see as a sign of urgency. 

Earlier in the week, Health Minister Olivier Véran predicted that around 4,000 people would be lying in French intensive care units over the festive period whilst the government spokesman Gabriel Attal warned that new measures could be announced. 

The big announcement by the French government on Thursday was of course the new rules on travel between France and the UK but it looks like more announcements will be made on Friday.

So what kind of measures could be brought in just before Christmas?

More travel restrictions

After the restrictions introduced for the UK on Thursday the French government may also introduce further travel restrictions perhaps even on entry from EU countries. Certain countries like Denmark and Norway have seen huge spikes in infections caused by the Omicron variant. 

France may try to limit entry from these countries in a bid to delay a similar spike in France. 

Booster dose acceleration  

The French government has been trying to accelerate the uptake of vaccination – and booster doses in particular. 

On Thursday, Véran floated the idea of reducing the mandatory waiting time between second and third doses to four months rather than t he current limit of five.

“It is an idea I find interesting,” he told French media, but said it was not his decision alone to make.

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New Christmas holiday guidelines 

It is likely that the government will adopt the recommendations of the Scientific Council which were made public earlier in the week. 

This would see new guidelines for Christmas gatherings. 

“For family reunions such as Christmas meals, it is recommended that the number of attendees is limited, that vulnerable people have received a booster dose, that rooms are regularly aired and that self-tests are conducted the day of the gathering or that a antigen test is completed on the eve or on the day of the event,” wrote the Council in a statement

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On Thursday, Véran also added that families should take care to ensure that each person seated at a table has a reasonable degree of space between themselves. 

He insisted however that families would be able to celebrate Christmas together. It is likely that any announcements related to festive gatherings will be guidelines rather than legally enforced rules. 

In the lead up to Christmas, the government has already recommended that people avoid parties and social gatherings where mask wearing is difficult. Masks are currently obligatory in all indoors public spaces in France. 

Conditional amnesty for people using fake health passes 

Around 110,000 people in France are currently using fake health passes to avoid vaccination. This is currently punishable with a hefty fine. 

Véran wants those using fake passes to be able to get vaccinated and has recommended amnesty for those who want to do so. 

“For French people with fake passes, I think that there is a health emergency. I want us to be able to work towards a framework that would allow a ‘system of repenting’, that would let people with a fake pass follow the rules without punishment,” he told the National Assembly on Wednesday. 

“It is urgent that people get vaccinated and protected. We cannot stop people from getting vaccinated because they have a fake health pass.'”

Such a measure would not likely have a drastic measure in stemming the immediate spread of Covid over the Christmas period but would likely have long-term benefits. 

Free home testing kits

French media reports suggest that the government is planning to make Covid-19 home tests free, for vaccinated people. 

Covid tests have not been free since mid-October – except for vaccinated people, people showing symptoms and minors. 

The idea of making home testing free is to help people living in isolated areas, far from testing sites. The other logic behind the hypothetical move is simply to encourage people to get tested before family gatherings over the festive period. 

Self testing kits allow users to perform a nasal swab and analyse the results themselves. Pharmacies currently sell these kits for up to €5.20 

 

Vaccination for children

Earlier in the week, Véran suggested that Friday’s meeting would serve as a forum for discussing the vaccination of children aged between 5-11

Vulnerable children with chronic health conditions and other co-morbidities have been eligible for vaccination since December 15th. But it is unlikely that blanket vaccination of children aged 5-11 will be authorised tomorrow, before various scientific and ethics council have had the chance to examine the possibility further. 

No lockdown or curfew…

French health officials have previously described lockdowns as the most “barbaric” tool in the fight against Covid-19. 

Such a measure looks unlikely for now, with Véran telling MPs on Wednesday: “It is not the choice that we have made.”


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