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'Decision time on new French Covid-19 measures next week'

Warning comes as UK and European nations ramp up restrictions to contain Covid-19

France may have to consider tougher restrictions on people's movements sooner rather than later, the government's chief scientific advisor on the epidemic has warned.

Asked on France 2 about the possibility of a third period of lockdown, Jean-François Delfraissy, head of the scientific council that advises the government on the epidemic said: “In the middle of next week, it may be time to discuss heavier measures to avoid an expansion of the epidemic.”

He said the Covid-19 situation in France was currently better than in the UK, Germany or Switzerland - nations that have already extended or tightened restrictions - and that new infections were not having as large an impact on the health system as the number of new hospitalisations is holding relatively steady.

But he warned this was not a time to relax. With more than 25,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in France reported on Wednesday, he said: “we are in a somewhat intermediate situation but we are seeing figures which are worrying.”

And he said that France already had about 22 confirmed cases of the UK variant, and it is highly likely that it will spread rapidly.

"In the UK it started in September. It took two and a half months to reach 60% of the virus currently circulating and if we see the same model in France, we will see a relatively rapid spread ... I think we cannot avoid it.

"We must do what we can to stop it, but I think we cannot avoid it. We need to slow it down as we vaccinate in the meantime.

Read more: New Covid-19 UK variant: France steps up UK-France testing

"We have high hopes for the vaccines. The first question is whether they will work on the English variant. It is probable, but we are not sure ... Mid next week we should know," he said.

He insisted that France can probably vaccinate 12 to 14 million people by mid-April, notably those most at risk, and 40 to 50% of the population by early summer.

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