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COVID-19 CRISIS

Covid figures suggest France has passed peak of second wave: health minister

French Health Minister Olivier Véran speaks during a press conference to present the details of new restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
French Health Minister Olivier Véran speaks during a press conference to present the details of new restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. AP - Ludovic Marin

With more tests being carried out and fewer people admitted to intensive care, French Health Minister Olivier Véran says there is every reason to believe the country has passed the peak of the second wave of the coronavirus epidemic. But the battle is a long way from over, the minister warned.

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Health Minister Véran said the epidemic is being brought under control.

"Thanks to the lockdown, just as in March, the virus is spreading less quickly," Véran told journalists from a group of regional newspapers at the weekend.

"Over the past ten days we've seen a decline in the number of new cases. There are fewer positive tests. Everything points to us having passed the peak of this second wave.

"But we have not beaten the virus," he warned. "Clearly, it's too early to say we've won and drop our guard."

Encouragement, but not too much

While Véran is anxious to prove the second nationwide lockdown is working, he has been cautious to avoid too much optimism, for fear of encouraging a widespread rejection of the health regulations.

Since it takes between 15 and 20 days for public restrictions to have an impact on the circulation of the virus, this will be a crucial week in the assessment of the second lockdown, which came into effect on 30 October. 

France's weekly average infection rate has nearly halved over the past fortnight. This is backed by the latest intensive care figures, with 270 people admitted in the past 24 hours to Sunday, the lowest number in three weeks. 

Safety the key to vaccine launch

Asked about the possibility of a vaccine being made rapidly available, the minister was equally cautious.

"We'll start to vaccinate people when we are sure that we can do so in complete safety.

"If we have the choice between several vaccines, we'll choose those that seem the safest and the most efficient.

"Between now and the start of next year, we could see three or four laboratories asking permission to launch a vaccine on the French market."

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