The French government will be able to vaccinate 70 million people by the end of August “if all of the vaccines ordered are approved by European and global health authorities”, French Health Minister Olivier Véran said Thursday. Véran told the TF1 television channel’s evening newscast that he expected “probably 1.3 to 1.4 million” people would be vaccinated against Covid-19 in France by the end of January, or more than the million initially announced.
The minister said the number of people vaccinated in the country would rise to “4 million at the end of February, 9 million in March, 20 million at the end of April, 30 million at the end of May, 43 million at the end of June, 57 million at the end of July, and 70 million, that is to say the entire French population, by the end of August”.
“People aged 75 and over who are impatient to be vaccinated will be before the end of March,” Véran added.
The French government weathered criticism early on for the slow pace of its vaccination campaign roll out.
No more homemade masks
Véran also said the French government is now asking that people cease using homemade fabric face masks as the artisanal coverings are considered to provide insufficient filtration against new, more contagious variants of the novel coronavirus.
Asked to predict whether restrictions on ski resorts – a hotspot for the virus at the start of the pandemic – would be lifted next month, the minister said it was very unlikely.
That effectively rules out a return to skiing in France in time for the February school holidays, normally the last peak period of the ski season.
Véran said that the government could not rule out a tightening of coronavirus restrictions should the virus transmission rates continue to rise.
“We could be forced to take tougher measures than those that the French people dealt with this autumn … That could go as far as a lockdown if the situation called for it,” he said.
France has reported over 71,000 coronavirus-related deaths since the pandemic began. It is now at 35 percent of its peak infection rate, according to Reuters data, well below its neighbour, Britain, which is at 70 percent. French schools are still open and non-essential shops are allowed to trade.
However, French public health officials say they have detected a rise in transmission rates in the past few days and they are also wary of the spread of the new, more contagious variants of Covid-19 which are prevalent in other countries.