Covid-19 epidemic in France ‘far from over’, government spokesman admits

The Covid-19 epidemic in France is 'far from over' and case numbers have reached stratospheric levels in several regions, government spokesman Gabriel Attal has said.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal.
French government spokesman Gabriel Attal. Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP

“Our epidemic is still far from over,” Attal said, pointing to the incidence rate, which has tripled in two weeks nationwide because of the virulence of the Omicron variant.

“This supersonic rise in contamination will continue over the next few days, and even into the next few weeks,” he warned, adding that case numbers were at ‘stratospheric levels’ in several regions, including the greater Paris Île-de-France region and Corsica, while hospitals in southeast France were under heavy strain.

States of emergency have also been declared in the overseas territories of Guadeloupe, Guyana, Mayotte, Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthélémy.

He said that this latest wave of the virus is different to earlier ones because Omicron is “two to three times” less severe than Delta. But he warned that the number of cases would inevitably impact hospitals and healthcare services.

READ ALSO Covid-19 travel restrictions between France and UK set to be eased

And he defended the government’s vaccination-led strategy, which he said has permitted “the feat of reconciling a maximum circulation of the virus with minimal restrictions,” pointing out that, around Christmas last year bars, restaurants and cinemas were closed and French people were living under strict evening curfew rules despite there being “10 times fewer cases” at the time.

“We will hold out … thanks to vaccination,” he said.

Asked about President Macron’s declared desire to “piss off” the unvaccinated, Attal said that the remarks “fall far short of the anger of a very large majority of French people”.

READ ALSO OPINION: Macron’s vow to ‘piss off’ unvaxxed was deliberate and won’t hurt his election chances

“Who is screwing whose life today?” Attal asked “Who is wasting the lives of our caregivers? The ones who oppose vaccines.”

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Will France’s Covid-19 health pass be consigned to the past?

France suspended but did not cancel the Covid pass in March - but the government has suggested it might not return, even with the country in the grip of the virus’s seventh wave

Will France's Covid-19 health pass be consigned to the past?

Cases of Covid-19 in France have risen 57.8 percent in the past week with daily cases topping the 200,000 mark on Tueday.

The virus’s seventh wave has the country in its grip – but it seems the government has no plans to reintroduce vaccine pass measures.

READ ALSO How serious will France’s seventh wave of Covid-19 be?

The vaccine pass –  itself a two-month development of the old health pass which had been required for entry to certain venues such as bars, restaurants and cafes – was suspended on March 14th, as cases of Covid-19 in France fell. But the health emergency law that enforced it was still in effect and allowed it to be reactivated at any time.

That law runs out on July 31st. Now, it seems the pass will not return. Reports in the French press last month claimed that the health ministry was discussing the possibility of re-imposing some form of pass sanitaire, a bill intended to replace the current health emergency laws makes no mention of it. 

The new president of the National Assembly, Yaël Braun-Pivet, confirmed this week that the vaccine pass was not included in the new bill, entitled “health monitoring and security”, which will be submitted to the National Assembly for debate from July 11 and will, if passed, come into law on August 1st – the day after the current law expires.

“[It] is not what is planned in the text of the law that will be submitted to parliament this week,” Braun-Pivet said.

Rather, the bill extends epidemic surveillance and contact case identification systems until March 31st, 2023. 

The second provides for the implementation of border control measures – such as requiring visitors to France to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative test – if a so-called variant of concern were to spread rapidly abroad, as confirmed by new government spokesman Olivier Véran. 

Currently, most health rules in place at the height of the pandemic have been relaxed. Masks are only required in French hospitals, health centres and places that have vulnerable residents such as nursing homes. They are also recommended in crowded spaces where it is impossible to practice social distancing.

READ ALSO French public urged to wear face masks again on public transport