French people are unlikely to see a return to "normal" post-coronavirus life before autumn next year as vaccine roll out could take longer than initially thought, the president of France's Scientific Council said Friday.
"Vaccines are a major source of hope but if you look at the vaccination capabilities that we will have in France and elsewhere in Europe, we will need time," Jean-François Delfraissy, immunologist and head of the Scientific Council, told France's BFM TV.
“The production of vaccines will be slower than envisioned 15 days or three weeks ago,” he continued. “We will not face a vaccine shortfall but we will have something that is more spread out over time.”
Delfraissy estimated some 22 million people in France were more vulnerable than others and that it could take until May to vaccinate them all, before shots could be rolled out to others.
Asked whether that meant the French would continue facing restrictions in daily life to fight Covid-19 infections until autumn 2021, he said: “More or less" and that "2021 would resemble 2020."
People in France could start receiving the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech in the last week of December if the European Union approves it next week, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Wednesday.
Self-isolating at the top
Delfraissy's comments came just a day after French President Emmanuel Macron became the latest world leader to test positive for the coronavirus. Macron, 42, was tested after the "onset of the first symptoms" and is self-isolating for seven days, at a presidential retreat in Versailles, in accordance with national regulations.
His office said he had a fever and was very tired but is continuing to work via video-conference.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex is also self-isolating after contact with Macron but has no symptoms and has tested negative. First Lady Brigitte Macron is also self-isolating but also shows no symptoms.
A flurry of contact-tracing followed the announcement, as Macron had recently been in contact with several other world leaders.
He attended an EU summit in Brussels last week and attended a conference in Paris organised by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on Monday.
The timing is awkward for the French leader, who is trying to handle the crisis over the pandemic in France while keeping a handle on Brexit talks and other international issues.
Macron has repeatedly urged caution against the spread of the virus and in public he always wears a face mask covering his mouth and nose.
Lockdown eased, cases increase
France earlier this week eased restrictions introduced to fight the second wave of the coronavirus, but infection rates remain high.
A nationwide overnight curfew is in place from 8pm to 6am and restaurants and cafes, as well as theatres and cinemas, still closed.
France recorded 18,254 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, health director Jerome Salomon said on Thursday, the highest daily tally since 20 November. He described the evolution of the epidemic as "preoccupying".
France ranks fifth globally for cases with more than 2.42 million so far.