Covid cases rise as French MPs agree to extend health pass

As French MPs agreed to the extension of health pass legislation until July 2022, the country has reported a slight but sustained rise in the number of Covid cases.

Covid cases in France are showing a slight rise.
Covid cases in France are showing a slight rise. Photo: Theo Ruby/AFP

MPs in the Assemblée nationale on Wednesday agreed to the extension of health pass legislation.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the pass itself will be in use until then – there is already discussion on phasing it out by area or by sector from November – but that it could be reintroduced without further parliamentary debate if needed.

The debate in the Assemblée nationale came as France reported a slight but sustained rise in case numbers, after two months of steadily falling cases.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal, speaking on RTL radio, urged caution, saying that the virus was “once again gaining ground”.

“For several weeks, the situation has improved significantly in our country, thanks to the efforts of the French, the deployment of vaccination,” he said. “But what we’re seeing is that for a little less than a week, the trend seems to have reversed and the epidemic is regaining ground.”

He qualified that the increase was low and that it was too early to speculate on whether this is the beginning of a fifth wave.

Case numbers in France had for two months been showing a steady decrease, with a corresponding decrease in hospital admissions and deaths – the latest data shows a daily average of 4,649 new cases a day, with 1,049 Covid patients in intensive care and 41 deaths in the 24 hours preceding October 18th.

Graph showing positive tests recorded in France from August 2021 to October. Graph:

However the last week has shown a slight but steady increase, with a daily average of cases up 10 percent on the previous week.

The graph above, from Le Parisien journalist Nicolas Berrod, shows the incidence rate – cases per 100,000 people – from March to October 2021, with cases falling in June, spiking again over the summer as the delta variant hit, and then falling from August – as the health pass was introduced and widespread vaccination took effect.

The majority of areas of France still have an incidence rate of below 50 cases, per 100,000 people – as the map below shows – but this week the département of Lozère was forced to reinstate mask-wearing in primary schools after its incidence rate rose above 50. Experts have cautioned, however, that the sparsely-populated nature of Lozère can mean that a slight increase in case numbers can dramatically affect the incidence rate.

Incidence rate by département, with départements in green under 50 cases per 100,000. Map:

As well as looking to extend the period that the health pass is in use, France has also begun its booster campaign for vaccines amid increasing evidence that the effectiveness of Covid vaccines wanes over time.

People in high risk groups such as the elderly or ill can now get a booster shot six months after their last dose – meaning that anyone in a high risk group vaccinated before mid April is now eligible for a booster.

READ ALSO How to get your Covid booster shot

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Elisabeth Borne named France’s new prime minister

Élisabeth Borne has been named as France’s new prime minister, making her the second woman to hold the position in French history, the presidential palace has confirmed.

Elisabeth Borne named France's new prime minister

Élisabeth Borne will be France’s next prime minister, making her the second woman to hold the position in French history.

The Elysee said that Borne would now be charged with forming a government.

After having long ties to the Socialist Party, Borne joined President Macron’s party La République en Marche and became Minister of transport in May 2017.

In July 2019, she became minister of ecological and solidarity transition, and the following year, she was appointed labour minister under Jean Castex’s government.

She began her career in politics in the 1980s, when she worked for the Ministry of Public Works.

Borne has been a favourite for the role for several reasons, namely her ties to the political left, as well as her pro-environment credentials and long career in both public and private sectors.

Nominating what would be only the second female prime minister in modern French history is sure to generate positive headlines.

The last woman premier was Edith Cresson, who headed the cabinet from 1991-1992 under president Francois Mitterrand. Speaking with France’s Journal du Dimanche newspaper on Sunday, she said that the new female PM will “need lots of courage” as the environment remains “macho.”

Macron accepted the resignation of Castex after the pair spoke at the Elysée Palace on Monday afternoon.

READ MORE: What does a French Prime Minister actually do?

Previously Castex told French daily Le Parisien he prepared a “very simple, very classic” letter of departure, saying he is leaving the office “without remorse, nor regret.”

The departure of Castex, who was a surprise choice for the role in 2020, and the reshuffle will enable newly re-elected Macron to reshape the cabinet ahead of crucial parliamentary polls in June.

The centrist will need a parliamentary majority to push through his domestic agenda following his re-election, with a new left-wing alliance and the far-right threatening to block his programme.

Those criteria reflect his desire to focus on schools and health in the early part of his second term, as well as the climate crisis which he has promised to prioritise.

READ MORE: French phrase of the day: Locataire de Matignon