There is “no need” to bring Covid restrictions back in France despite the rise in cases and the spread of the new Omicron subvariant, the health minister has said.
Olivier Véran yesterday (March 20) told Le Parisien: "For the past two days, the number of hospitalisations has not fallen…[we expect] to see a rise in contaminations until the end of March, before a decrease in April.”
However, he said that “this is not a worrying sign”, and that “greatest risk is for the most fragile and the non-vaccinated. This is why we are inviting them to wear their masks and have their booster vaccination".
The fourth Covid vaccine dose is now available in France for the over-80s.
Mr Véran denied that the government’s lifting of Covid restrictions was an “electoral” policy timed to coincide with the presidential election campaigns.
He said: “Our only concern has always been the safety and health of people in France. If a new variant threatened us, we would act immediately, presidential election or not!
"If we had kept the measures, some would have denounced it as a means of maintaining a level of fear supposedly useful to the president. When we lift them, the same people tell us that it is ‘electoral’.”
The minister also compared French policies to those of some European countries, and said that even those with measures still in place are seeing rising cases due to the Omicron subvariant, BA.2, which is even more contagious than its predecessor.
He said: “Many of our neighbours are lifting their measures like us, but even in those such as Italy, which are keeping the vaccination pass, are not spared either.”
He said that the "highly contagious" BA.2 variant could "partially thwart the classic prevention measures", hinting that reintroducing restrictions may therefore offer a limited effect.
It comes one week after the vaccine pass was no longer required in most public places, and masks were no longer mandatory (except for on public transport and in healthcare settings).