Thousands of people rushed to make vaccination appointments in France on Thursday after the government announced that all adults were eligible for a booster and that health cards would no longer be valid after a certain period if they did not receive any.
French Health Minister Olivier Véran told a press conference on Thursday that France was experiencing a new wave of cases which would be “stronger and longer” than that of the summer, but that “no containment, no curfew, no store closures, no travel restrictions ”would be enforced.
By focusing on vaccinations and social distancing measures, he said, “we are choosing to balance freedom and responsibility.”
Starting this weekend, anyone aged 18 and over will be able to receive a booster injection, no earlier than five months after their second injection, said Véran. Previously, the booster was only available to healthcare workers, people at high risk for severe Covid, and people 65 and over. About 19 million people are affected by the new announcement, said Véran.
Some adults who have not received a booster within seven months of their second injection will have their passes expire, barring access to restaurants, museums, long-distance trains and other public places unless they are tested regularly. , said Mr. Véran.
He said more than 400,000 vaccination appointments had been booked on Wednesday, ahead of his press conference.
About 70 percent of the population is fully immunized. But the number of new daily cases recently hit around 30,000 in the past few days, according to French officials, and reached the prime minister. The recent increase has resulted in the closure of 8,500 classrooms, up from 4,100 last week.
Jean-Michel Blanquer, French Minister of Education, announced at the press conference that classes would no longer close if a student tested positive, but that they would demand that all students continue to be tested. Only those who test negative will be able to come back, he said.
Hospitalizations – mainly of unvaccinated patients – are also increasing, according to French health authorities.
Mr. Véran also urged the French to respect social distancing rules and guidelines. He announced that from Friday, masks would be mandatory indoors even for establishments or events requiring a health pass, and that the pass would also be mandatory to access the Christmas markets.
“We must remain vigilant at all times, resume good habits,” said Mr. Véran.