Surge in French Covid vaccine appointments after new restrictions announced

Nearly a million people booked appointments for Covid-19 vaccinations in France Monday evening, after President Emmanuel Macron announced that proof of vaccination would be required for most public spaces, in an attempt to push reluctant or skeptical people to get the jab.

Sites used to book appointments for a jab saw a surge in visits after Macron’s announcement that from 1 August, anyone entering a restaurant, train or shopping centre will need to show either proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test via a ‘health pass’ that is already being put in place for admission to cinemas, theatres or events of 1,000 or more people.

"You will have understood that vaccination is not obligatory straight away, but we are going to extend the health pass to its maximum to encourage as many of you as possible to get yourselves vaccinated," Macron said in a televised address.

In addition, Covid tests will no longer be free as of September for those without a prescription, "to encourage vaccination instead of taking many tests.”

Surge in appointments

The Vite ma dose site that aggregates seven vaccine appointment sites reported 3.4 million visitors, and 1.1 million appointments booked on Monday evening, by people anticipating not being able to go out to eat, travel or attend events without a jab.

The director of Doctolib, the main appointment-booking site, Stanislas Nioux-Chteau, said Tuesday morning that over 900,000 people booked jabs Monday evening.

Doctolib tweeted Monday that a record-breaking 20,000 appointments were being booked each minute.

Macron also announced that healthcare workers and those working in care homes or with vulnerable people must be vaccinated as of September.

Health Minister Olivier Veran said that staff would not be allowed to work and would not be paid if they are not vaccinated by 15 September.

Government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said this represents some 4 million people, nearly 40 per cent of whom are not yet vaccinated.

Avoiding a fourth wave

The measures are to avoid a fourth wave of the virus, whose Delta variant is gaining ground in France. About half of new infections in France are of the Delta strain, which is believed to be 60 per cent more infectious than the original Covid virus.

The number of new cases in France has jumped to above 4,000 a day, although the number of intensive care cases and deaths in hospital remain low, for now.

Just over half of France’s population, about 35.5 million people, have received at least one vaccine jab, but the rate of injections has slowed in recent weeks.

All political parties, except the hard-right National Rally, have backed the government’s making vaccinations mandatory for health workers.

Broadening the use of the health pass has raised criticism. The measures must be be passed into law, and parliament will hold an extraordinary session as of 21 July.