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Thursday, December 9, 2021

France pushes booster vaccines and makes masks mandatory

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France will begin offering adults a COVID-19 booster dose from Saturday as a fifth wave of the virus ramps up.

Health minister Olivier Véran made the announcement as cases, hospitalisations, and deaths rise in France.

He said no new lockdowns or curfews were planned.

Véran did however introduce an incentive to get a booster shot. Adults will need one by January 15 for their COVID health passes — which allows access to restaurants, bars and other indoor venues — to remain valid.

Individuals over the age of 65 will have to have the third dose by 15 December, the government had already announced.

A negative COVID-19 test will now only be valid for a health pass within 24 hours of it being taken, Véran added.

Currently, the negative test could be used as a health pass for 72 hours.

From Friday, masks will be mandatory in all indoor settings, even if a health pass is required for an event. Outdoor Christmas markets will also require masks, authorities indicated.

The government’s announcement comes as the number of cases has increased significantly, with the country reporting 32,591 new cases on Wednesday (November 24).

The incidence rate has already climbed to nearly 200 new cases per 100,000, four times that of the national alert level.

Around 76.9% of France’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 which amounts to nearly 88% of the population eligible for vaccination.

Véran said that they would work to convince the millions of people who had chosen to not yet receive a COVID-19 jab but also hailed France’s high level of vaccination. They said it had spared the country from a worse fifth wave of infections.

French authorities noted that the COVID-19 vaccine had reduced the risk of hospitalisation by eight and the risk of being in intensive care by ten.

Education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer, meanwhile, said school classes would no longer close in the event of a case of COVID-19 but that instead, all students in a class would be tested.

The European Medicines Agency recommended on Thursday that vaccination be available to children between the ages of 5 and 11, with Véran stating that it would not likely be available to children before 2022 in France.

The authorities said vaccination would be “optional” for children once available.

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