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France has decided to delay the start of the school year in several overseas territories as Covid cases soar and hospitals are overwhelmed, with few people vaccinated.
The Covid crisis in the French Caribbean departments of Guadeloupe and Martinique, as well as in several other overseas territories, is “very serious” said government spokesperson Gabriel Attal, speaking after a health defence council meeting on Wednesday.
“Under-vaccination is taking its toll” in the Caribbean as well as in French Polynesia, he said, retierating warnings that French officials have made for several weeks.
Vaccination rates in France’s overseas departments and territories are lower than those in mainland France and Covid incidence rates are alarmingly high, and increasing rapidly.
French Polynesia, with a population of 280,000, has had 300 people die of Covid, over half in the last three weeks.
Most people in the archipelago are not vaccinated, and high rates of diabetes and obesity have made them more vulnerable.
In French Guyana, Covid case numbers have risen 40 per cent in a week, according to Attal.
The Polynesian archipelago is under a curfew, and the Society Islands, which include Tahiti, are under lockdown.
Schools have already been closed, and Attal announced Wednesday that Guadeloupe and Martinique, along with large parts of French Guyana, and the territories of Saint-Martin and Saint Barts, will delay the start of their school year from 2 to 13 September.
The health state of emergency in the territories will be extended through 15 November, and Martinique has decided to extend the strict confinement it implemented at the end of July by three weeks, to 19 September.
Attal called on national solidarity for the territories, and for health workers and reinforcements to be sent to organise patient evacuations, and to make sure there is enough oxygen to treat those on site.