The French minister of health Olivier Véran has warned that the implementation of a third lockdown in France can’t be ruled out if the level of Covid-19 infections "were to worsen”.
Speaking to the Journal du Dimanche weekly newspaper, Véran said: "We will never rule out measures that may be necessary to protect the population. That does not mean that we've made up our minds, but that we are continuing to monitor the situation by the hour."
The French authorities fear the arrival of a third wave in the weeks following the Christmas holidays, especially since the spread of the virus remains high in the country, with some 15,000 infections now being recorded per day, while the rate had previously been lowered to 11,000 daily cases.”
Rural France hit hardest
Véran also reiterated the government’s objective of bringing the number of cases per day to under 5,000. “The pressure on the health system remains high, with 1,500 hospitalizations per day,” said the minister, adding that the Macron administration is ready to take "the necessary measures if the situation worsens."
The situation is already of concern in eastern France, the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté regions and the Alpes-Maritimes department, with a significant increase in the incidence of Covid-19 among the elderly in rural areas.
While many countries have already taken 2nd lockdown measures, according to Véran, France implemented "strict and difficult measures earlier to let the French breathe during the [Christmas] holidays." Although he recognized the measures haven’t fully worked with more than 40,000 new cases of Covid recorded in 48 hours between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Curfew remains, vaccines roll out
Only 3,093 cases were recorded in France on Saturday with the Christmas holiday and the closure of laboratories, but Véran noted that “we will quickly know if family and festive gatherings will have had an impact [on Covid figures]" following the temporary lifting of the curfew on Christmas Eve, when most French people have their Christmas dinner.
The 8pm curfew will however remain in place over New Year’s Eve with Véran advising people not to celebrate - "We cannot, for one evening, take the risk of locking the country down again for weeks."
Véran's comments in the Journal du Dimanche came as France began rolling out it's innoculation programme on Sunday, following the approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for use by the European Medicines Agency last week.