France holds crisis talks on reining in Covid spike ahead of Christmas holidays

By Amanda Morrow with RFI
DEC 6, 2021 LISTEN

Authorities in France are holding an emergency health defence council at noon on Monday to decide on new measures to fight an explosion in Covid infections, and the threat of the Omicron variant. The government is also expected to pave the way for the vaccination of at least some children aged 5 to 11.

Information obtained by France Info indicated authorities are not considering the renewal of lockdown or curfew measures, except perhaps the early closure of some public places, such as concert halls or entertainment venues.

There is speculation that school holidays might be brought forward, as has been done in Belgium, and that new rules will be forced in enclosed places.

News channel BFM reported that identity documents may be required in addition to a person's health pass, which consists of a person's name, date of birth and a QR code.

The primary focus remains on how to increase vaccination rates and reduce the time needed to make appointments.

An adviser to the Elysée Palace told France Info radio that increased pressure would be put on the medical services of cities as more vaccine batches arrive this week. 

“The challenge is to see which are the last levers that could be put in place without putting more constraints on people who are vaccinated people" the unnamed source said.

Vaccinating young kids

No definitive measure will be taken on the vaccination of young children, expect perhaps those with co-morbidities, as the government is awaiting the opinion of France's High Authority of Health. 

The Europeans Medicines Agency last deemed the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be safe for children aged 5 and over, and several European countries have already begun their vaccination campaigns. 

While infection rates are rising sharply among children aged 5 and over, the government has already said that any decision made on vaccinating children in this age group – which could happen from January – would remain voluntary.

Authorities have also been clear that 5-11 year olds will not be subject the health pass rules that govern whether people in France can eat in restaurants, go to cultural venues and travel on trains, among other things.

More than 42,250 new infections were detected on Sunday, with more than 11,500 people hospitalised - including 2, 066 in intensive care.

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