French Prime Minister Jean Castex said at the weekly Covid press briefing on Thursday that Covid statistics in mainland France, though concerning, did not warrant a new lockdown.
He warned though, that the situation was under constant review and announced that from tomorrow evening the French Indian Ocean island of Mayotte would begin a lockdown to last at least three weeks.
The Prime Minister also announced that travel between mainland France and its overseas territories will no longer be allowed except in exceptional circumstances.
In a summary of progress so far, Health Minister Olivier Veran said that by the end of March, every Care Home resident who so wished, would have had a first vaccination jab.
France would respect a 3- to 4-week interval between jabs, he said, rejecting the UK policy of delaying the second injection.
AstraZeneca rollout begins
Amid complaints that the over 75s and those with co-morbidities cannot get appointments to be vaccinated, Véran acknowledged the problem of delays in delivery of doses.
The AstraZeneca vaccine has now been approved for use in France and it is to be made available from Saturday to health professionals and later to those between 50 and 65 years old.
As it can be more easily stored, it can be given in doctors’ surgeries and pharmacies and the Health Minister said he hoped that by the end of February 4 million people in France would have had their first injection of a vaccine.
New tests for children
There will be more testing in schools and universities and a new saliva test is nearing approval. The aim is to have it ready for use when schools re open after the mid-term break, as it is considered more suitable for children.
Reminding his audience that unlike in many other countries, tests in France are available without a doctor’s prescription and are free of charge, the health minister again appealed to everyone with symptoms to get tested.
He explained a new procedure aimed at trying to stem the spread of the more contagious new strains. When a case of a new variant of Covid is detected, a nurse will immediately visit the person concerned, to test others in the household and social services will offer practical help with shopping and accommodation to ensure that the sufferer can strictly respect a 7-day isolation period.
Drop in working from home
Work and Employment minister Elizabeth Borne expressed concern at the drop in the number of people working from home. She declared that wherever it was possible, people should do so. She listed banking and insurance among sectors where too little work was being done from home.
In a sign that people are tiring of the restrictions, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin stated that fines for failures to respect anti-Covid rules, had gone up by 53% since the 6 pm curfew was imposed on Jan 16th.