In France, people over 55 years of age have begun receiving the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine, the first single-dose injection against the coronavirus.
The vaccine manufactured by J&J, known in Europe as Janssen, has already been ordered by some 80,000 health professionals in France, said Health Minister Olivier Véran on Saturday.
France was already in receipt of some 200,000 doses last week, but was waiting for the go-ahead from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in order to distribute and administer it.
The EMA said that the Janssen vaccine had a favourable benefit to risk ratio, despite the “very rare” risk of blood clots.
So far, nearly 14 million French people have received at least one dose of one of the Covid-19 vaccines and just over 5 million of them have received both doses. At Euro Disneyland, right outside France’s capital, a large vaccine station opened its doors on Saturday.
The speed of vaccination rate is picking up, with more people eligible for the vaccine, including relatives of those who have compromised immune systems, but others, such as Nice mayor Christian Estrosi, says that more people need to be vaccinated.
"It’s necessary to vaccinate those who will allow activity to resume, in offices, shops, public services, cultural activities,” he told Le Parisien newspaper on Saturday.
French health officials have imposed as of Saturday, a new 10-day quarantine to prevent the spread of Brazilian, South African, and now Indian, variants.
All travellers returning from Brazil, India, Chile, South Africa, Argentina, and Guyana must provide their airline before they board the plane with proof of the place they have chosen to pass the quarantine.
Random police checks will be carried out on those who are self-quarantining, and the fine for non-compliance will be between 1,000 to 1,500 euros. The current fine is 135 euros.
Their worries that the variant could take off in France is not unfounded: for the past 10 days,
the number of patients in intensive care, has remained around 6,000, a level higher than during the first epidemic wave in Spring 2020.
Thursday evening, Prime Minister Jean Castex was cautiously optimistic, saying "the peak of the third wave of the epidemic seems behind us.” This announcement comes as 30,438 people remained hospitalized Friday evening.
"We do not seem to be after the peak. We are on a plateau, slowly descending…but the teams are on their knees," Gilles Pialoux, head of the infectious diseases department of the hospital Tenon in Paris told Europe 1 radio on Saturday.
"We are in a somewhat complicated world where social life has taken over the defence of public hospitals,” he added.
French schools to re-open
Students will return to school on Monday after a three-week forced break by the French government in order to curb the spread of the third wave of the virus. This return to class will come with a very strict health protocol, however: immediate class closure if one student tests positive.
Part of the new school procedures will include 400,000 saliva tests administered each week in elementary schools. The government estimates that this move could reassure school staff and teachers.
For secondary education, nearly 64 million self-tests have been ordered for staff and students over 15 years old.
Although daytime travel limits will cease by 3 May, he curfew will remain in effect. Shops and cultural places will reopen mid-May, if the health situation allows it.