President Emmanuel Macron has revealed that France's curfew will remain in place for another four to six weeks in an off-the-cuff comment.
Mr Macron was visiting the garden city of Stains, Seine-Saint-Denis, to promote a mentoring system in France intended to increase the chances for young people from disadvantaged neighborhoods or remote areas to gain qualifications and find a job when he made the comment in response to a question from a member of the public.
An unnamed young man asked him if the start-time of the curfew, which runs from 18:00 to 06:00 daily, could be put back one hour 'because it's hard'.
In response, Mr Macron said: "We still have to hold out for a few weeks ... four to six weeks."
EN DIRECT - Couvre-feu à 18h: interrogé par un jeune durant une visite à Stains, Emmanuel Macron appelle à "tenir encore quelques semaines", "4 à 6 semaines"https://t.co/Co7YCpvOrG pic.twitter.com/JdRBHTIx4e— BFMTV (@BFMTV) March 1, 2021
The Elysée later clarified his remarks, saying: "This is a time when the vaccine strategy will have developed. In four to six weeks, we will have vaccinated more French people, which will have an impact on the evolution of the epidemic.
But, the palace added: “The strategy does not change. We continue to take the necessary measures, always on a case-by-case basis. "
Directeur général de la Santé Jérôme Salomon, meanwhile has insisted that the curfew, which has been in place since mid-December "works very well".
But he still refuses to rule out "stricter measures" in the event of a worsening of the Covid-19 epidemic.
"The situation is obviously very tense and is changing with the new variants" but "the government has taken strong braking measures in particular with the curfew. The latter works very well," Mr Salomon, an infectious disease specialist told Journal du Dimanche.
"The presence of the variants means that we must achieve a higher level of collective immunity, at 80%," he said. “Today, between 15 and 20% of the French population is immune and 5% is vaccinated. We are therefore in a critical race against time.”
But he said that he believed a third confinement period can be avoided. "We have saved time. In nursing homes, the vaccination rate is close to 80%, with already visible effects on mortality and hospital admissions."