The French government set a timeline on Thursday to lift the country’s Covid-19 restrictions over the next few weeks, as pandemic indicators in France show tentative signs of improvement and a presidential election looms in April.
Jean Castex, the French prime minister, said at a news conference that there was a “clear ebbing” of the wave of coronavirus cases attributable to the Delta variant, as well as preliminary indications that another surge of cases linked to the Omicron variant was slowing down in the areas where it struck first, like the region around Paris.
“This exceptional wave is not over, but the situation is starting to evolve more favorably,” Mr. Castex said.
France has seen an average of more than 300,000.0 new cases per day over the past week. On Monday, 525,000 cases were reported, making it the most cases reported in a single day since the outbreak. There are over 27,000 Covid-19 patients in hospitals across the country. However, the number of patients admitted to intensive care units has fallen from the peak of almost 4,000 patients last week.
Castex stated that February’s restrictions would be eased in stages. Castex stated that the first to be lifted are outdoor mask mandates and capacity limits in public institutions. Some companies may also have mandatory work-fromhome rules.
When the Omicron surge is expected to peak around February 2, night clubs will be permitted to reopen. People will also be allowed to eat in places like stadiums or movie theaters again.
“We must be confident, while remaining vigilant,” Mr. Castex said.
He said that France will enforce a ban on people without proof of full vaccination entering public establishments such as bars, restaurants, and museums starting Monday. The government has not yet stated when the restriction would be lifted, but officials said that they would wait to do so until the pressure on hospitals has subsided significantly.
“We will apply the vaccine pass as long as necessary, but no longer than necessary,” Olivier Véran, the French health minister, said at the news conference.
In a report published this week, the scientific council that advises the French government on Covid-19 was cautious, saying that the Omicron surge was not over and that “its impact on the health system will remain high, but partly manageable, until mid-March.”
The council warned that social distancing rules would remain paramount, and it urged the authorities to put more resources into detecting cases in schools, where there is “very active circulation” of the virus. The government is proud that schools have remained open despite the outbreak.
Teachers and school staff across France staged protests Thursday over a lack of safety equipment, such as air-quality monitors or protective masks. The protests were notably smaller than the large walkouts by teachers’ unions last week over the same issue.
After last week’s demonstrations, the government promised to distribute five million FFP2 masks — the European equivalent of N95 — and to hire thousands of substitute teachers.
The teachers’ unions have also been angered by recent revelations that the education minister was vacationing on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza while a contested new testing protocol for schools was taking shape.
Source: NY Times