Bookings for Covid-19 jabs surge as Macron announces new restrictions for the unvaccinated
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A record number of French people sought to book appointments for Covid-19 vaccinations on Monday night after President Emmanuel Macron announced a slew of measures designed to push sceptics to get themselves jabbed.
In an address to the nation, Macron announced that from next month anyone wanting to go out to eat or drink, take a long-distance train or visit a shopping centre will need to show either proof of vaccination or a negative test.
The so-called “health pass” will also be needed to attend a festival, a theatre show or a cinema screening as part of the government’s strategy to tackle the surging number of new cases linked to the Delta variant.
“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.
The prospect of having to take a test for every meal or drink out appeared to have an instant impact on many unvaccinated people, with the main websites used to book appointments for a jab reporting a surge in visits.
The Doctolib site reported what it said was a record 20,000 appointments being taken every minute on Monday evening. The site said early Tuesday morning that a total of 926,000 people had booked a first jab through the platform over the course of Monday, "an absolute record".
Covid tests, which are currently free, will have to be paid for from September “to encourage vaccination instead of taking many tests”, Macron added.
The 43-year-old head of state also announced mandatory vaccinations for healthcare staff, retirement home workers and others working with vulnerable people from September in line with similar moves in Greece, Italy and Britain.
Health Minister Olivier Véran said that from September unvaccinated staff would not be allowed to work and would not be paid.
“Our country is facing a surge in the epidemic across our territory, in mainland France as well as overseas,” Macron said at the start of his address.
“The situation is under control, but if we do not act now the number of cases will increase significantly and will lead to a rise in hospitalisations,” he said.
💉😷🇫🇷 Wow! Nearly a million vaccine appointments booked in just one day on France's @doctolib website after Macron's speech last night. Certainly a defining moment in the campaign. #COVID19 #Macron20h #Macron @nicolasberrod https://t.co/C3C5Tx3XCL— Stuart Norval (@StuartNorval) July 13, 2021
Around 35.5 million people—just over half of France’s population—have received at least one vaccine dose so far, but the rate of injections has slowed in recent weeks.
At the start of the pandemic, France had some of the highest levels of vaccine scepticism in the developed world.
The announcements represent a change in direction for the government after several months of progressively lifting restrictions and they underline the concern about the potential impact of a fourth wave of infections.
A panel of scientists who advise the French government on health matters warned last Friday that as many as 95 percent of people might need to be vaccinated to dam the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of Covid-19.
“We need to head towards vaccinating every French person because it’s the only way of returning to a normal way of life,” Macron added, saying that the idea of making the jab mandatory for everyone would need to be studied.
The Delta strain of Covid-19, believed to be around 60 percent more infectious, already accounts for half of new infections in France.
The number of new cases in France has jumped to above 4,000 a day, according to the latest available official figures, although the number of deaths in hospital—four in the past 24 hours—is low.
Around 7,000 people with Covid are in hospital in France, around a quarter of the peak of the third wave in March-April.
The restrictions also underscore the different strategies being followed in most European countries compared with Britain, where the government announced Monday it would press ahead with “Freedom Day” next week by lifting most pandemic curbs in England.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
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