French nightclubs reopen to vaccinated people

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Nightlife fans across France will be able to burst into clubs again from Friday, despite warnings of an imminent rise in Covid cases due to the more contagious Delta variant, which looks set to become the dominant strain in the country this weekend.

While nightclub owners are providing relief after nearly 16 months of closure, capacity is limited to 75 percent of normal and proof of vaccination or a recent negative test is required for entry.

That has led many clubs to be reluctant to open, as only 21 percent of people aged 18 to 29 – the main demographic group of people – have been fully vaccinated with two doses.

Masks are also recommended, but not required, and if a steamy recent viral ad is any indication, most customers won’t want to hide it.

The vaccine campaign poster, released by regional health authorities over the weekend, shows a couple engaging in a passionate French kiss under the caption “Yes, vaccination can have desirable side effects.”

For Martin Munier, manager and artistic director of the Sacre club in central Paris, the solution was to set up a test tent in front of the door together with a neighboring pharmacy.

“It’s a relief to be able to open, even if I’m not 100% back right away,” he told AFP.

In the western city of Nantes, a group that owns four clubs in the city is offering free entry to 18 to 25-year-olds who have had at least one Covid shot.

Most clubs, however, remain closed, preferring to collect government aid pending more visibility into how the increase in Delta business will play out.

President Emmanuel Macron will address the country in a prime-time TV speech on Monday after meeting top ministers involved in the health crisis, his office said, adding to uncertainty as the summer break looms.

Macron has long been expected to address France about his long-cherished pension reform project, but he could also take measures against the pandemic, including a possible mandatory vaccination for health workers.

‘Very vigilant’

French officials on Thursday warned citizens against traveling to Spain or Portugal amid a spike in Covid-19 cases, urging people to stay home during the holidays.

Health Minister Olivier Veran acknowledged that only a third of French nightclubs would reopen on Friday, “because 70 percent were unable to follow strict health protocols.”

“We will remain very vigilant and it is clear that if we have to change course because things are going badly, we will do what we have to do,” he told France Inter Radio.

Veran added that Delta cases now account for nearly 50 percent of the total and “will soon be the majority, probably this weekend, in our country.”

His comments came as the government’s virus advisory body of top scientists urged to make vaccination mandatory for health professionals and retirement home workers, many of whom are hesitant to get the shot.

It said that in retirement homes, only 40 percent of workers have been vaccinated with at least one dose, compared to 52 percent for the total population.

“The pandemic will not be brought under control until 90 to 95 percent have been vaccinated or vaccinated,” the scientists said, a figure above the traditional 60 or 65 percent for so-called “herd immunity” due to the more contagious Covid variants.

(AFP)