Despite pleas from doctors and scientists, and deteriorating epidemic indicators, President Macron commented yesterday, “As long as you have vaccines in the fridge, I will not re-confine people.”
Accordingly, at a weekly press conference Thursday evening to update the Covid crisis in France, prime minister Jean Castex health minister and Olivier Véran announced only one new local confinement in Pas-de-Calais, which is expected to cover the next three or four weekends.
This is in addition to the weekend confinements in the Alpes-Maritimes and the Dunkirk region. Last week, twenty departments were placed under “enhanced surveillance” given the evolution of the Covid-19 epidemic and variants. This has been upgraded to 23 departments, adding Aisne, Aube, and the Hautes Alpes to the list.
“The British variant represents more than 60% of cases in France and we have seen a strong acceleration over the last two weeks but the progress is less than we feared,” said Castex. “I ask you to observe the rule of caution and not gather with more than six people together.”
On Wednesday, there were 25,111 hospital admissions (500 less than last week) and 3,637 patients in ICU. “The pressure is mounting,” the prime minister commented. There has been a 17.5% decrease in admissions for those aged 80 and over.
“It’s a race against time, the prime minister stated when it comes to vaccinating the country.
To date, nearly 760,000 caregivers, or 32%, have received at least one of the two injections. “This is not normal” said Olivier Veran. The vaccination is not mandatory but from tomorrow a letter will be sent out to encourage them to get vaccinated. “It is absolutely necessary.”
The government is saying that 10 million people, including all 50 to 74 year olds, will have received their first dose by mid-April. By mid-May, this number will be 20 million and by summer, two-thirds of the country 18 and over, 30 million people, will have been vaccinated. As of yesterday, 3,245,517 people have had their first jab.
33,000 liberal doctors have signed up to start vaccinating in their offices the week of March 8 for which 765,000 doses of AstraZeneca have been ordered.
Olivier Véran added that a report from the Institut Pasteur shows Covid spreads mostly from eating meals together, personal gatherings and at the workplace, where half of all cases had symptoms but did not isolate.
For the first time in six weeks, the Alpes-Maritimes department, which goes into its second weekend lockdown Friday at 6 p.m., saw a slight decline in its incidence rate. For the week of February 22 to 28, it registered 563.2 per 100,000 people, down from the mid-month figure of over 600 (and 750 in Nice). There are currently 800 new cases every day in the Alpes-Maritimes, which is 2.5 times higher than the national average.
“From this weekend, we are speeing up testing and administrating the vaccine,” said Castex, adding that confinement can never be ruled out if the situation deteriorates.
WHO has reported an increase in Covid cases in Europe after six weeks of decline. “Last week, new cases of Covid-19 in Europe rose 9% to just over one million. That ends a promising six-week drop in new cases, with more than half of our region with a growing number of new infections,” Hans Kluge, WHO European director, said at a press conference.
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