The specter of a third reconfinement still hangs over France in the face of new, more contagious variants of the virus, while the executive on Thursday defended its much maligned vaccination campaign, and sought to soften the fate of the students a little.
If the situation worsens, in particular with the development of the “English variant” of the virus, which is much more contagious, “we could have to take harsher measures, it can go as far as confinement if the situation were to require it”, repeated the Minister of Health Olivier Véran at the “20 hours” of TF1.
But “we are not there today”, assured the minister, wishing “to give a chance to work” to the curfew now advanced to 6 pm throughout the territory and which has allowed a drop in the epidemic incidence in the 15 departments where the measure was applied from the beginning of January.
Olivier Véran also defended the vaccination campaign, extended at the beginning of the week to all over 75 years old, and which has known many difficulties. After the websites and telephone lines saturated for making appointments, several regions have recorded unscheduled vaccinations, sometimes until March, for lack of sufficient supplies.
Objective 70 million
“In 95% of cases everything took place in an extremely remarkable way”, assured the minister, questioning the “tradition in France of talking about trains that do not arrive on time”, and ensuring that some vaccination centers had “overbooked”.
He praised the general “mobilization” and assured that 500,000 new appointments would be offered on Tuesday for the period “between the middle and the end of February”.
The minister also set the goal of vaccinating 70 million people by the end of August and called on the French to strengthen barrier gestures, in particular by no longer using homemade masks, deemed insufficiently filtering in the face of new variants.
“66 million prosecutors”
In an allusion to criticism of the management of the health crisis, Emmanuel Macron had already regretted earlier Thursday the “incessant hunt for error” in France, which has become “a nation of 66 million prosecutors”, causing scathing reactions in the political class.
The President of the Republic also looked at the fate of students, hit hard by the health crisis and whose situation is increasingly worrying. Deprived of amphis for over two months, they are harshly subjected to precariousness and isolation.
Visiting the University of Paris-Saclay, Mr. Macron wanted them to be able to return to college one day a week, have access twice a day to a meal for one euro in U restaurants and facilitate their intake. psychological load, by creating a “psy check”.
On the economic side, the status quo confirmed Thursday announces a “white season” for ski resorts, which will not be able to reopen their ski lifts on February 1, and very probably not during the winter holidays (spread from February 6 to March 1 ).
The outlook also remains very bleak for bars, restaurants and cultural venues (theaters, museums, cinemas), closed since the end of October and with no foreseeable reopening date.
On the trade side, the sales got off to a good start on Wednesday, but with stores less crowded than usual.
On Thursday, the bar of 20,000 positive cases recorded in one day was again exceeded. According to more consolidated data, but not definitive, the number of people testing positive remained stable last week, at more than 128,000.
As a result of the increase in contaminations at the end of the year-end holidays, hospital admissions are on the rise, going back above 10,000 over seven days since this week. With more than 25,000 Covid-19 patients hospitalized throughout the country, including 2,876 in intensive care, the burden on the health system remains high, at the same level as at the end of the 2nd wave this fall.
France recorded 358 additional deaths in hospital on Wednesday, according to Public Health France, a stable level for weeks, bringing the total to 71,998 deaths since the start of the epidemic (hospital and nursing home combined).
But in the eyes of health authorities and many doctors, the context is still made very fragile by the threat of Covid-19 variants, including the more contagious “VOC 202012/01”, which has overwhelmed the hospital system in the United Kingdom, where 1,820 additional deaths were recorded on Wednesday (93,290 deaths in total), a new daily record.
“As of January 20, 2021, 131 cases of infections with the VOC variant 202012/01 (United Kingdom) and 10 cases of infections with the variant 501Y.V2 (South Africa) have been reported in France”, said Thursday evening Health Public France, judging “the acceleration of the deployment of the vaccination campaign (…) essential”.
Thursday evening, the Ministry of Health reported an assessment of nearly 823,567 people vaccinated.
But for the scientific council, if vaccines constitute “a major hope for limiting the impact or even largely solving the COVID-19 pandemic”, it is “not before the summer – autumn 2021”.