World news

Macron seeks to slow Delta variant amid virus surge in France

French president Emmanuel Macron. File picture by Olivier Hoslet
Angela Charlton, AP

Potential restrictions are a possibility once more in France as the Delta variant of the coronavirus surges, just three days after the country opened up its nightclubs for the first time in 16 months.

President Emmanuel Macron is hosting a top-level virus security meeting on Monday morning ahead of a televised speech in the evening, as he has done at each turning point in France’s fight against the virus.

He is expected to announce plans for a law requiring health care workers to get vaccinated, and a requirement for special Covid-19 passes for restaurants or other day-to-day activities.

Other possibilities include a return to limits on the number of people allowed in public venues which only reopened in May, following one of the world’s longest shutdowns.

Authorities could also start charging money for some virus tests, which up to now have been free for everyone on French territory.

Any new measures are likely to be relatively mild for now, but are aimed at reminding France that the pandemic is not over yet.

“We have to live with the virus,” Europe minister Clement Beaune said.

“Living with the virus means we don’t re-close everything.”

The government’s main weapon, and main worry, is vaccinations. France has vaccinated 40% of its population and vaccines are widely available for anyone aged 12 and over.

But demand has ebbed in recent weeks – partly due to hesitancy and also because some people thought they would get their jabs when they returned from vacation.

Meanwhile, French restaurants and bars are thriving again, the Tour de France is drawing tightly packed crowds across the country, and Hollywood stars are posing arm-in-arm and mask-free on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival. Cheek kisses are making a comeback.

As the La Bellevilloise nightclub reopened Friday in eastern Paris, the owner braced for the possibility that the party could be short-lived. But clubgoers were exhilarated at rediscovering the dance scene.

Parisian Laurent Queige called it “a liberation, an immense happiness”.

Clubgoer Sophie Anne Descoubes said she was impressed by the rigour of how the club checked her QR code showing she’d been either fully vaccinated or freshly tested, saying: “I don’t have any apprehension, just a great joy and the desire to stomp.”

France’s virus infections started rising again two weeks ago, and health service SOS Medecins has registered a slight rise in demand for emergency virus treatment.

The number of people in French hospitals and intensive care units has been declining for weeks, but doctors predict this will rise in the coming weeks when the increase in Delta variant infections hits vulnerable populations, as it has in Britain and Spain.

Meanwhile, Mr Macron is also meeting with car industry figures as he tries to combine his virus warnings with a message of hope for one of the world’s biggest economies.

New infections are threatening France’s all-important tourism industry and Mr Macron’s ambitious economic recovery plan, just nine months before the next presidential election.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

World news