France steps up Covid vaccinations amid rising intensive care admissions
Hundreds of thousands of people were vaccinated against Covid-19 across France at the weekend as the government stepped up its drive, with the number of coronavirus patients admitted to intensive care continuing to rise. The UK and Germany, meanwhile, have started easing restrictions.
"Around 585,000 French people were vaccinated since Friday. A new stage has been reached this weekend in our fight against the virus,” Tweeted Prime Minister Jean Castex on Sunday.
France ramped up its Covid vaccination drive this weekend, and Health Minister Olivier Veran insisted it must continue.
"Each time a vaccine is available in our country, a French person must be vaccinated, whether it’s Monday or Sunday – vaccines must be offered as quickly as possible,” said Véran on a visit to two vaccination centres in Tourcoing.
About 3.8 million of France's 67 million people have received a first jab, as of Monday morning, according to Covidtracker, which compiles government statistics.
France says it will deliver 10 million first jabs by mid-April and 30 million by the summer.
Vaccinations, ICU admissions on the rise
With vaccine deliveries increasing, Véran said vaccination centres will adapt their organisation to open to as many people as possible.
The president of France's top health authority told French media Monday that France could approve the Johnson & Johnson's vaccine, which requires only one jab, by vaccine by Friday or Saturday, once it gets approval from the European Union's EMA regulator.
Despite the new infection rate appearing to slow, along with new hospital admissions, there is a sense of urgency for France’s vaccination drive as intensive care hospital beds are filling up.
On Sunday, the latest figures showed 187 new admissions over the past 24 hours, bringing the total occupied ICU beds to 3,743, the highest level since November, which saw a peak of 4,900.
France has not imposed a third general lockdown to keep numbers down, instead opting for local weekend lockdowns, a nightly curfew, and the closure of bars, restaurants and entertainment venues.
Restrictions easing elsewhere
The United Kingdom, meanwhile, which has provided close to 23 million people with a first vaccine jab, is slowly easing its restrictions. Primary schools in England reopened Monday for the first time since January. Secondary school students will return gradually over the next week.
In Scotland, young children returned to school last month, and older students will return part time from 15 March.
The UK government has said it will ease limits on outdoors social interaction on 29 March, with the reopening of non-essential businesses from 12 April.
In Germany, the government has allowed bookstores, florists and driving schools to reopen as of Monday, as the population chafes against restrictions
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is expected to address the country Monday evening to announce whether the government will extend restrictions, including a 6pm curfew, which sparked riots in February.
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