French PM announces mass Covid testing trial after Christmas

PM Jean Castex discussed Covid health plans this winter including vaccines, skiing restrictions, and a Covid testing campaign for densely populated areas during an interview this morning,

2 December 2020
Prime Minister Jean Castex speaking on BFMTV. French PM announces mass Covid testing trial after ChristmasMr Castex said mass testing trials would allow a better understanding of the Covid-19 virus
By Joanna York

Prime Minister Jean Castex announced that a “massive” testing campaign will be implemented after the end of year festivities in France. “Or maybe before. We are working on it,” he said.

Speaking on news channel BFMTV-RMC this morning (December 2), he said: “The idea would be to work by trial, which has been done in other countries, testing massively in densely-populated urban areas.

“This will allow us to better understand this illness, which neighbourhoods are most affected, which groups are most affected and which kinds of spaces are most affected. We will be able to find curative, preventative information.”

The prime minister said the testing would be done in three phases, although areas to be tested had not yet been chosen. “Maybe the north, maybe Normandy, maybe the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region,” he said. 

Border checks to stop skiers going abroad

Mr Castex also announced that measures would be imposed to stop French people travelling abroad to ski this winter, including random border checks, Covid testing, and seven-day quarantines.

Ski stations in France are currently closed as a health precaution. The prime minister said it was important that people in France did not use this as a reason “to go and contaminate themselves” in other European countries where ski stations are open over the festive period. “I want to protect people,” he said. 

On Tuesday, President Macron also said that “restrictive and dissuasive measures” would be taken to stop people in France going skiing in Switzerland over Christmas. 

Read more: Petition for French ski stations to open over Christmas 

Other key points from the interview

Travel exemption forms

Mr Castex said that travel exemption forms will no longer be needed for day-time journeys from December 15. From this date, curfew measures will begin, and travel exemption forms will be needed to leave the house at night time.

Places of worship

Places of worship will be able to open with a maximum limit of 30 worshippers allowed inside at any one time, with a 6m2 protective space around each person. 

The PM said that exceptions may be made for Christmas masses. 

Vaccination

Authorisation for a Covid vaccine in France is expected towards the end of December, according to the PM, who added that “authorisation is needed from American authorities and then European” before the vaccine comes to France.  

He said: “Through the European system, we have pre-ordered enough to vaccinate 100 million people. It is essential that as many people in France as possible accept getting themselves vaccinated.” 

Read more: Covid anti-vax sentiment rises above 50% in France

Sports stadiums

The public will not be able to attend sports matches in stadiums “before December 15, that is certain”, according to the PM. He said no collective amateur sports would be able to restart before this date, and did not indicate a date when they may resume.

National football competition la Coupe de France will not take place this year. 

Sports centres

As for sports centres and gyms, Mr Castex said he “could not imagine them reopening before January 20”. 

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