France has voted to extend the state of health emergency until February 16 pending approval in the Senate, as President Macron defends harsher restrictions, and a record 45,422 Covid cases are reported in 24 hours.
The Assemblée Nationale voted in favour of the extension by 71 to 35. The proposal will now pass to the Senate on Wednesday (October 28). If it passes, as it is expected to, it will come into force at the beginning of November.
A state of health emergency allows the government to impose tougher restrictions on public freedom as a means to fight Covid-19. This state has been in place by decree for one week already, but it requires a proper vote to extend it by more than a month.
It can be lifted if the health situation improves earlier than anticipated.
This currently appears unlikely.
Health Minister Olivier Véran said that the epidemic “situation will deteriorate in the next few days and weeks, whatever we do”. He described the extension of the state of health emergency as “a responsible action that will allow us to actively protect the public over this period, which will be long and difficult”.
A total of 54 departments are now under curfew, with movements restricted between the hours of 21:00 and 06:00 for everyone without an appropriate exemption certificate.
On Friday (October 23), President Emmanuel Macron said that the country would be living with the virus “until at least summer 2021 at the earliest”, during a visit to the René-Dubos hospital in Pontoise, in Val-d’Oise.
He said: “It is still too early to say whether we will need to go towards more local confinements or larger...In the phase that we are in, we have no other choice, looking at the number of infections per day, but to reduce our social life to the maximum if we really want to protect our health system and our people.”
Mr Macron added that the curfew was necessary and that next week “we will have a clearer vision of the impact of the measures we are taking, and we will have decisions to make about how to adjust things in the next few weeks”.
The President did not rule out the possibility of further lockdowns, either locally or nationally, “and in areas where the epidemic is spreading more quickly”.
Mr Macron also said that a vaccination against Covid was likely to start by the end of the year, or the beginning of 2021, but said that it was unlikely that the country would be able to create “a national strategy that allows us to respond to the virus” as quickly.
He said: “We are hopeful about treatment...clinical trials are still taking place, so things are still uncertain and we anticipate having a clearer picture towards the end of the first trimester of 2021.”
He added that it will be necessary to “vaccinate 20-40% of the population for it to really start to have an impact”.
Mr Macron also tweeted a series of reminders about how to stop the spread of the virus from his official Twitter account, and called on “everyone to take responsibility”.
He said that sharing the message “could save lives...whether you have 50, 100, or 1 million followers on social media...we will only beat this second wave together”.
He added that “this is not an illness like any other...it does not spare anyone, even young people. We are all at risk. We are all linked”.
Nous ne le rappellerons jamais assez : non, ce n’est pas une maladie comme les autres. Non, le virus n’épargne personne. Jeunes comme moins jeunes, nous sommes tous exposés. Nous sommes tous liés. https://t.co/7HA5giVN2R— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) October 23, 2020
He said: “Help us to remember that behind the words ‘contact cases’ or ‘positives’, are the faces of our parents, our friends, our colleagues. The virus is spreading, especially in private spaces…help us to explain that wearing a mask and all barrier measures must become like wearing a seatbelt...a reflex to protect ourselves.
“Help us to show that yes, giving up a dinner or a weekend between friends doesn’t please anyone. But it is temporary. Restraining ourselves now is offering hope that we can see each other again soon. We must all play the game.”
Covid-19 in France: Latest figures
A new record of 45,422 cases of Covid-19 was reported in the past 24 hours, according to the latest figures from Santé publique France, on Saturday October 24.
There were 138 more deaths.
The number of people in hospital with severe cases rose to 2,491 (an increase of 54 in 24 hours). There were 1,667 new hospitalisations in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of hospitalisations nationwide to 15,637.