France will open Covid vaccine boosters to all adults and reinforce distancing rules in an effort to stem a new wave of infections – without resorting to fresh lockdowns or curfews.
France’s fifth wave would be “without a doubt longer and stronger” than the fourth wave this summer, said Health Minister Olivier Véran at a press conference Thursday.
"We can get through this wave without resorting to the most constraining methods” used by France’s neighbours, he added, announcing that for now there will be no business closures or movement restrictions.
Covid booster shoots, which until now have only been available to those 65 years old and older, will be available to all adults as of this weekend, with the period between the second and third shot shortened to five months instead of six.
More vaccine centres will open and reopen this weekend to take into account the 19 million people eligible for the booster.
Véran said France had enough vaccine supplies, with health ministry data indicating the country has more than 30 million doses in stock.
The booster will become part of the health pass, which is required to enter many public venues, include restaraunts, cafes, cinemas and museums.
As of 15 January, adults must show proof of a booster to keep their health pass valid.
In addition, negative tests for non-vaccinated people will only be valid for one day, instead of 72 hours now.
Facemasks will again become mandatory in all public indoor spaces, and local authorities can decide to impose masks outside at certain events.
Christmas markets will become dependent on people carrying a health pass, Véran added.
Working from home is recommended whenever possible.
Véran said that France is exploring vaccinating children, but it would not start before next year, with France's medical ethics body and health regulator to weigh in on the issue.
On Thursday, the European Union’s drug regulartor, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), approved the Pfizer BioNTechComirnaty vaccine on children aged 5 to 11 years old.
It concluded that the benefits of the vaccine outweighed its risks, particularly for those with conditions that increase the chance of a serious case of Covid.
The 10mg dose will be lower than the 30mg administered in older people, however.
The EMA will now send its recommendation to the European Commission, which will issue a final decision.