President Macron is set to announce the gradual stages of ending lockdown in France next week, as the second lockdown is described as “starting to bear fruit”.
The President will hold a meeting with the health defence council today (Wednesday, November 18) and is scheduled to announce the first steps for deconfinement, which are set to be gradual, next week.
A mass vaccination campaign is expected to be included in the country’s future plans to avoid “messing up” this new deconfinement process and a possible third wave of the Covid-19 epidemic.
Government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said: “Work is in progress on the developing rules for the weeks and months to come, with one objective: organising things in context to allow the public to live as normally as possible whilst keeping the epidemic under control.”
The deconfinement process this time is likely to be slower than that rolled out in May, and will aim to avoid a future “third wave” or lockdown.
Measures could include continued curfews after lockdown is lifted, and authorities have already said that it is unlikely that bars, restaurants and cafes, as well as sports halls and other public spaces, will open until 2021.
Sports and activities for young people may be permitted to restart in December, Mr Macron said.
A source close to Mr Macron, quoted by Le Monde newspaper, said: “It will be tough for all activities where you cannot wear a mask or stick to physical distancing.”
The government is yet to announce whether it will permit non-essential shops to reopen on Black Friday, November 27. Some have campaigned for reopening on this day to allow businesses to recover ahead of Christmas, but the government has delayed its decision “until next week”, and is still considering the health situation, it said.
But Health Minister Olivier Véran this week said: “We still haven’t beaten the virus.
It is too early to declare victory and relax all of our efforts.”
Lockdown ‘bearing fruit’
The deconfinement plans come as director-general of health, Jérôme Salomon, said last night that the second and current lockdown is “bearing fruit”.
New cases of Covid-19 have dropped in recent days.
Yet, Mr Salomon called on the public to “keep up their efforts” as individual and group changes are having a major effect on the spread of the epidemic, he said.
In the previous 24 hours, there were 12,587 new cases, and 437 more deaths - a drop from previous days.
Hospitals are still under pressure: yesterday there were a record 33,500 Covid patients in hospital in France, of which 4,854 were in intensive care.
Mr Salomon also called on the public to take care of their mental health during the crisis, and said people should consult a doctor if they need to talk, as well as reminding people to check in on their friends and loved ones' mental as well as physical health.
Mr Salomon said: “This pandemic is complex, painful, and long. But efforts are paying off, and together, we will manage to take back control of the epidemic.”
Vaccination in France from January?
Last week, Mr Attal said that France would consider starting a vaccination campaign “from January onwards” and that the authorities were “getting ready to distribute a Covid-19 vaccine”. France has budgeted €1.5billion for this in 2021, he said.
The health minister also said that vaccination would begin in early 2021 “if the vaccine works and is safe”, and said that 30 million doses had been ordered from the American lab Pfizer - pending proof it is safe - as part of a coordinated European Union effort.
On Friday 13, President Macron met with the health minister, deputy Minister for Work Agnès Pannier-Runacher, and Junior Minister for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, as well as Mr Salomon.
This “inter-ministerial task force” is working to coordinate and define a vaccination campaign within the coming weeks.
While some, including the eco MP Yannick Jadot, called for vaccinations to be made mandatory in France, the French public’s response to the vaccination has been less enthusiastic.
The prime minister’s office, Matignon, has said that compulsory vaccination “will not be possible because all medical interventions are done on the basis of consent”.