France Covid restrictions: Health minister warned Covid rules could be used after pandemic

Macron's comments on unvaccinated 'undiplomatic' says expert

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Omicron continues to run rampant across Europe. France reported some 305,322 cases yesterday, while Italy and Spain reported 184,615 and 156,161 cases respectively. While the UK reported just over 100,000, Germany announced more than 90,000 new infections — the highest recorded in a single day in Germany since the pandemic began. Boris Johnson’s Government has held its nerve in recent weeks, opting against introducing new restrictions while the rest of Europe focuses on the immediate challenge of tackling alarming numbers.

Professor David Heymann of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said at a seminar on Monday that the UK is “the closest to any country in being out of the pandemic”.

On the other side of the English Channel, however, Emmanuel Macron seems intent on waging war against unvaccinated parts of the French population.

He told Le Parisien at the turn of the year that he wanted to make life difficult for the unjabbed.

He said: “I really want to piss them off, and we’ll carry on doing this — to the end.”

Though he has not enforced mandatory vaccination policies, as will be implemented in Italy and Austria next month, Macron hopes limiting access to social activities will encourage unvaccinated people to get the jab.

From today, the French must prove their vaccination status to access restaurants and bars, cultural venues and interregional public transport.

All those who have not received their booster seven months after their second jab, and those who have not contracted the virus in the meantime, will have their ‘passe sanitaire’ deactivated.

Up to 800,000 people will be affected, according to French news website The Connexion.

These rules, it seems, may extend well beyond the current pandemic.

French Health Minister Olivier Véran said last month that any measures can apply to “any other major sanitary event that could affect our country”.

He said: “It’s a bill that’s meant to last for the years, the decades to come.”

The French government’s impact study indicated that their findings were not meant to be used to enforce mandatory vaccinations, but that it might be necessary if a more serious pandemic hit.

It reads: “This provision is not intended to be used in the framework of the current health crisis to establish an obligation of vaccination against COVID-19.

“Using such a prerogative could, however, be particularly necessary in the face of an even more serious epidemic threat.

“It could also allow better reconciliation between the objective of health protection and rights and individual freedoms instead of placing general lockdown measures on the public.”

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Mr Macron’s Covid strategy has infuriated large swathes of the population.

Tens of thousands of French teachers walked out on Thursday, taking to the streets to demand better protection for pupils and staff.

An estimated 31 percent of all teachers were on strike over constantly changing guidelines that one of the country’s leading teaching unions said was causing “chaos”.

Education minister Jean-Michel Blanqeur outlined new rules on January 2, the eve of the new school term.

The rules stated that if a positive Covid case was detected in a class, all other students must take three tests in four days to stay in school.

The first had to be a PCR or antigen test, with two lateral flows to be taken at home on days two and four.

The rules changed again on Monday when French prime minister Jean Castex announced during a radio interview that students would only need to take three lateral flow tests at home.

If the first was negative, they could return to school the following day before taking their second test at home that same evening.

He also announced that parents of children who are close contacts of a positive case could wait until the end of the school day to pick up their children.

Guislene David, a spokesperson for the Combined National Union of Primary School Teachers said teachers and schools are “fed up”.

She said: “We are informed by the media and not the minister.”

She added the new protocol was “allowing the virus to easily enter the schools and was not protecting the teachers.”

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