PARIS (FRANCE) – Stating to the public that he is confident about reigning in new COVID wave, President Emmanuel Macron defended his decision to hold off on a third lockdown on Saturday, despite a delay in vaccine rollout.
France is gearing up to close it borders to all but essential travel to and from countries outside the European Union, while people arriving from within the bloc will have to show a negative test. Large shopping malls will be shut and police patrols increased in a bid to enforce a 6 pm curfew.
Macron, however, has not ordered a new daytime lockdown, stating that he wants to see first if other measures will be enough to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Senior medics have recommended a new lockdown as 10% of cases now attributable to the more contagious variant first found in Britain. One opinion poll showed falling public confidence in the government’s handling of the crisis.
“I have trust in us. These hours that we are living through are crucial. Let’s do all we can to slow the epidemic together,” Macron tweeted.
Government advisers judged that the slower-than-expected spread of a contagious variant first detected in Britain meant there was no risk in delaying the decision on a lockdown by a week, Health Minister Olivier Veran told in an interview.
But he added action would be swift if the virus started spreading faster: “We never said we would not impose a lockdown in the next two weeks if necessary.”
Veran said France’s medical regulator was due to give its assessment on AstraZenaca’s vaccine on Tuesday. France has so far approved vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.
Paris resident Sami Terki said it was “a good thing for now – even mentally – to not have to go through a new lockdown.” But he added: “My only concern is that we then take the decision to lockdown too late.”
The public health authority said the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care dipped slightly to 3,113. France reported 24,393 new COVID-19 infections on Saturday while the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital stayed above 27,000 for a fifth straight day.
Professor Dominique Rossi, who heads the Marseille Hospitals’ Medical Commission, said the local heath authority had asked hospitals in the Bouche-du-Rhone area to cancel 40% of all non-urgent medical interventions.
Managing the flow of COVID and non-COVID patients was “a real ethical headache”, he told. “The (COVID-19) projections are really worrying.”