France - Fourth wave

Macron defends vaccination and health pass to stop France 'closing down'

People in France will have to get used to health passes and restrictions as President Macron warned the health crisis was far from over.
People in France will have to get used to health passes and restrictions as President Macron warned the health crisis was far from over. AFP - FREDERICK FLORIN

As the fourth wave of the Covid-19 epidemic progresses in France, the government has announced tighter rules for areas with high rates of Covid cases, particularly the French Caribbean.

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France is now reporting an average of over 22,000 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 per day.

“The health crisis is not behind us. We are going to live for several more months with this virus,” warned President Emmanuel Macron following a defence and health security council meeting on Wednesday.

France’s health situation is “more than delicate and requires our mobilisation” he said.

French West Indies

Macron described the situation in the French West Indies islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique as "dramatic".

French Overseas Territories Minister Sebastien Lecournu, who arrived in Guadeloupe accompanied by a support team of 274 volunteer medical staff and 60 firefighters on Tuesday, said Guadeloupe was seeing over 1,700 cases for 100,000 inhabitants and Martinique 1,165.

Martinique introduced stricter lockdown measures on Tuesday and similar measures will now to be applied to Guadeloupe, government spokesman Gabriel Attal announced on Wednesday. 

Macron deplored the low level of Covid-19 vaccination in the Antilles where only about 20 percent of people above the age of 12 are fully vaccinated, compared with 66 percent in mainland France. The health crisis in the Antilles was “cruel proof” of the need for jabs against the virus, he said.

Vaccination

The government is sticking to its objective of “vaccinating all French people who can be”, the president said.

Prime Minister Castex tweeted on Tuesday that 87 percent of admissions to ICUs in France are unvaccinated, 

At the start of the new school term, all children in secondary education will be able to get vaccinated on the premises.

Third doses of the Covid-19 vaccines will also be made available from mid-September for the elderly and most vulnerable.

From mid-October Covid-19 tests will no longer be reimbursed. "We decided [on Wednesday morning] to bring in the end to free tests, except on medical prescription," government spokesman Gabriel Attal said.

‘White plans’

Faced with a resurgence in serious cases, four regions in the south and west of mainland France (Acquitaine, Provence-Alpes-Cotes d'Azur, Occitanie and Corsica) have now triggered a ‘white plan’ health crisis management scheme to prevent hospitals becoming saturated.

The plan involves deprogramming non-urgent treatment, discharging patients early and recalling staff on leave.

Health pass

Three days after a controversial health pass became obligatory to access many places in French daily life, Macron insisted the pass was the only way forward.

“No sector can act as if nothing is happening. We have no other choice, it was that or closing down the country with new curfew and lockdowns.”

Under the new rules, the virus pass will also be needed in big shopping centres in regions where the virus is spreading more rapidly.

He called on professionals in cultural venues, cafés, restaurants and nightclubs to show “responsibility”.

While opponents of the pass have protested for four consecutive weekends in cities across France, Macron argued: “When there was no turnover at all due to the epidemic, it was public money that allowed the managers of these places and their employees to be paid."

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