“Even though the virus is circulating less in France than in our European neighbors, the alert level remains high,” said French prime minister Jean Castex Thursday evening at a press conference.
While the prime minister commented that “2021 is a year of hope,” he added that it is absolutely not the time to “let our guard down” with an average of 15,000 cases a day over the past week, or one person hospitalized from Covid every seven minutes.
For the moment, the 15 departments, including the Alpes-Maritimes, under extended curfew – 6 pm to 6 am – will remain so until at least January 20. Tomorrow the government will confirm the ten other departments now with infection rates of over 250 people per 100,000 inhabitants that will also be under extended curfew from Sunday.
Everything that is closed today – theatres, cinemas, cultural centers, ski lifts, restaurants, cafés, bars, gyms etc – will remain closed until at least the end of month. A decision will be made on January 20 as to whether to reopen the ski lifts for the school break. Restaurants, cafés and bars will remain closed until at least mid-Febraury.
However, the prime minister has not ruled out that should cases start to rapidly increase over the coming days and hospital admissions rise, a result of New Year’s Eve, than the government will not hesitate to enforce stricter measures, including possibly reconfinement.
The border with the UK, a country with an infection rate eight times higher than France (Switzerland is double), will remain closed indefinitely. This is essential as 19 cases of “the English strain” have appeared in France. This variant, as well as that of South Africa that has also appeared in France, is 40% to 70% more contagious, although the vaccine is still as effective.
The vaccination campaign in France started December 27 and although the role out has been slow, 200 million doses will be administered across this year, with one million vaccinations given by the end of this month.
Castex pointed out that Covid tests in France are free (they cost €100 in Spain; €350 in the UK) and from January 20, anyone under the French Sécu testing positive will be able to have a medical visit at home, as well as download an arrêt de travail attestation directly on ameli.fr.
Some 12 million French have downloaded the government’s new track and trace app, tousanticovid, which lets users fill out a request to be vaccinated (currently, only 38% of the population want the vaccine). It also allows for quick attestations, provides the number of people vaccinated and where in the country, and allows to scan QR codes of restaurants (when they reopen) to show whether anyone at the establishment has tested positive.