Top adviser warns France will probably need a new shutdown as early as February

France will probably have to go into a third shutdown, perhaps as early as the February school weekend, due to the spread of new variants of the virus, the government’s top medical adviser on COVID-19 policy said on Sunday.

French school children have two weeks off in February, but the whole month is a holiday month because three different zones postpone the start of their holiday by one week, with the first one starting on 6 February.

“We probably have to move towards inclusion. Whether it must be a very strict containment like the first in March or a softer form like in November, it is a political decision,” said Jean-François Delfraissy, head of the Scientific Council. which advises the government on COVID-19 responses, told BFM TV.

The government will meet on Wednesday to decide whether it needs to take extra action.

“If we do not tighten the rules, we will be in an extremely difficult situation from mid-March,” said Delfraissy.

He said it would make sense to let the new suspension coincide with upcoming school breaks and to extend the holiday by at least a week.

On 16 January, France introduced a curfew every night at 1800 CET for at least two weeks in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus, but since then the average number of new infections has increased from 18,000 per day to more than 20,000.

Delfraissy said the advent of the more infectious British, South African, Brazilian and now Californian variants has completely changed the pandemic situation over the past three weeks.

“These new variants are equivalent to a second pandemic,” he said.

He said data showed that the British variant was already at levels of 7% to 9% of cases in some French regions, especially the Paris region and that it was now unstoppable, as it was spread by the French, no longer just by people coming from Britain. .

He said the only bright spot was the vaccination campaign.

“During the three months from early February to late April, we will have a race between the arrival of the British variant and the vaccination of as many people as possible,” he said.

He said he expected France to vaccinate 6 to 8 million people in mid-April, but added that Health Minister Olivier Veran’s forecast of 70 million vaccinations by the end of August was unlikely to materialize.

“I think we can vaccinate about 40% of the population by the end of the summer, but no more,” he said.

(REUTERS)