Two years after the first detention, the French government is preparing to lift most of the anti-Covid-19 restrictions on Monday, March 14, following the example of other European countries.
“We have been waiting for these progress for a long time, the French have been waiting for it, they mark a decisive step”said government spokesman Gabriel Attal on Wednesday.
Monday’s stage comes down to two major measures:
- The vaccination pass, which must be vaccinated against Covid-19 to access many places, will be lifted, even if the “health” version, which also works with a negative test for the virus, will be maintained in health facilities in wide sense: hospitals, nursing homes, etc.
- The mouth cap is no longer mandatory, with the exception of transport and weather health institutions. This exemption mainly concerns schools, shops and companies, which will have the choice whether or not to impose it on their employees. Cinemas, restaurants or museums were no longer subject to this obligation since the end of February.
A less favorable context than announced
With this huge relief, France is following the lead of several European countries, starting with Denmark, which launched the movement in early January. But the date chosen seems paradoxical at the time when “the number of cases” † doesn’t seem to diminish”in the words of Mr Attal, an understatement, as the epidemic has picked up slightly over the past few days.
This is partly due to less vigilance on the part of the French, who have been announcing the end of restrictions for several weeks, and to the emergence of “BA.2”, a highly portable version of the Omicron variant, already very contagious in its previous incarnation. However, the government had said it would only end the vaccination pass if the epidemic stopped progressing.
Another condition, mentioned a few weeks ago by the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, is also not being fulfilled for the time being. The end of the pass would come for fewer than 1,500 people admitted to intensive care with Covid-19. More than 1,800 patients were still in this situation this weekend.
Admittedly, Mr Véran dampened the government’s enthusiasm on Friday and promised to stay “extremely vigilant”† This is not enough to reassure some doctors and researchers who, a month before the presidential election in which the head of state, Emmanuel Macron, is running for a new mandate, regret a relief that they consider illegible, premature and suspicious of demagoguery.
These researchers are less concerned about the end of the vaccination pass, whose effect on the epidemic remains very uncertain, than about the lifting of the mask requirement. They are especially concerned about the fate of immunocompromised people, for whom vaccination has little effect.
The political world in harmony
In the political world, on the other hand, there is broad agreement. No opponent of Mr Macron, left or right, found the easing of measures too hasty, in a context mainly dominated by the war in Ukraine and, to a lesser extent, economic considerations such as pensions or purchasing power.
In addition to the political consensus, the government can also count on relatively optimistic forecasts from the Pasteur Institute, whose models serve as the basis for the scientific council, which in turn advises the state in the health crisis.
Even in the worst case scenario, the Institute estimates that the wave will be far from the peak observed at the beginning of the year with more than 300,000 cases per day. As for the effects on hospitalizations, the most crucial issue, these would be mitigated by the fact that Omicron – in its BA.2 version and in its previous incarnation – seems much less dangerous than its predecessor Delta, which now has it almost completely repressed .
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