France

France Easing Lockdown Restrictions Earlier Than Expected

France is bringing forward the lifting of a nationwide curfew by 10 days amid falling numbers of daily positive Covid tests. Guidelines on mask-wearing are also expected to be eased sooner than expected. The MailOnline has the story.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Jean Castex told a news conference on Wednesday that the night-time curfew would now end from June 20th, and that face masks would soon no longer be required outdoors.

After restaurants, bars and cafes were allowed last week to reopen indoors for the first time in seven months, Castex said life in France was at last starting to return to normal.

“We’re on the right track – let’s keep up our efforts,” Castex said. “The health situation is improving faster than we had anticipated, everywhere in mainland France.” …

The [Delta] variant accounts for the bulk of new infections in Britain, but French Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Tuesday it only represented 2-4% of confirmed cases in France…

Castex said pressure on French hospitals had decreased significantly. The number of people in intensive care units was down by 116 to 1,952 on Tuesday, according to health ministry data.

France’s seven-day moving average of new cases, which was above 40,000 two months ago, stood at 3,500 on Tuesday. French health experts say the pandemic can be considered under control if the rate is below 5,000.

Worth reading in full.

France Will “Welcome” British Tourists from June 9th – but with a Long List of Terms and Conditions

“Now for some good news,” says the MailOnline, as restrictions on British travel into France will ease from June 9th. But it’s not all roses. Brits who aren’t fully vaccinated will need a “compelling reason” to visit the country and will be required to quarantine for seven days if granted entry. The MailOnline has more.

Tourists will have to use the French Government’s “Pass Sanitaire” – a digital document to which proof of negative test or vaccination can be uploaded.

The Pass Sanitaire is currently required for all travellers over the age of 11 – however the French Government says that a negative test will be accepted for children in place of vaccination without specifying an age from which this applies.  

That will be a blow for any families wishing to head for sunnier climes in France because older children in their teens and early 20s are unlikely to receive both doses of a vaccine before the end of summer. 

And there are currently no plans to vaccinate U.K. teenagers, with the British Government prioritising second doses for more vulnerable age groups.

The border opening on June 9th will also allow E.U. passport holders in without any proof of testing at all. 

The relaxation in requirements comes as Britain itself clamps down on travel abroad, with the removal of Portugal from the Green List of approved destinations yesterday unleashing chaos and a wave of cancelled bookings.

France is on the U.K. Amber List, meaning that Britons must quarantine for 10 days on their return and take two Covid tests, as well as testing negative before they depart for France. 

The  British list of approved destinations is due to be reviewed every three weeks.

Worth reading in full.

French Parliament Votes Against Vaccine Passports – but it’s Not Over Yet for the Scheme

The French Parliament has voted against the introduction of domestic Covid vaccine passports, but officials seem determined to find a way to pass them into law regardless. 20minutes has the story (translated from French by Google Translate).

Against all odds, the National Assembly voted on Tuesday against the key article of the bill on the way out of the Covid health crisis. This is the article including the controversial “health pass”.

The scales tilted against the bill after the Democratic Movement (MoDem) party split from members of La République En Marche! (LREM) to protest against the vagueness of the text. The Deputies rejected Article One by 108 votes against 103. “There was no dialogue” on “the red lines” of the text… explained Philippe Latombe of MoDem, stressing the unanimity of his group against the article.

After this surprise rejection, French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on France 2 that the Deputies were going to deliberate again on Tuesday evening in order to “find an agreement with the majority” and “to settle this problem”.

The bill on “management of the exit from the health crisis” sets a transition period from June 2nd to October 31st during which the Government can continue to exercise powers deemed exorbitant by the opposition and some defenders of public freedoms.

Article One, rejected by the deputies… provided for a health pass which would make access to large gatherings or certain places subject to the presentation of a negative test result, or a proof of vaccination, or a certificate of recovery.

It sparked heated debate on Monday night. For large gatherings requiring the “pass”, a limit of 1,000 people has been promised by the Government but without setting it in stone in the law.

Stanislas Guerini, the Executive Officer of LREM, said in response to this vote: “I regret it because I am resolutely in favour of the introduction of the health pass: it will allow us to regain our freedoms more quickly… There may be a second reading in the National Assembly. We will have to find a way to introduce this tool.”

Pseudo-Epidemic in France and Sweden as Deaths Drop Below Average

Despite the clear evidence from America of states without restrictions experiencing no worse (and often better) outcomes than states with restrictions, the case for lockdowns continues to be pressed, with proponents pointing to the surges in France (which has just entered another lockdown) and across Europe, as well as in Brazil. But are things actually as bad as they’re claimed by the lockdown zealots?

Europe’s spring surge, which appears to be easing off now, has been driven in part by an increase in testing. France, for instance, has been spiking in positive cases.

But it is also ramping up testing.

The positive rate is therefore largely flat.

British Variant Not More Deadly, Admits PHE

Contrary to claims since January that the Kent coronavirus variant is “up to 100%” more deadly, a new study from Public Health England has confirmed – as a Lockdown Sceptics‘ analysis showed three weeks ago – that it is no more deadly than the original virus. The study continues to claim it increases the risk of hospitalisation by 30%, but this too seems unlikely to be more than a statistical artefact. As the Swiss Doctor notes, it is based on poor evidence, and “the influence of age, comorbidities and seasonal effects is much larger”.

Lockdown Sceptics noted on Saturday that while the British variant is becoming dominant in many countries, that dominance is often, as in the UK and Denmark, accompanied by infections, hospitalisations and deaths plummeting not surging. President Macron is locking down France again for a month (including closing schools), blaming the surge on the British variant. But is this correct? Here’s the graph plotting the progress of the Kent variant across the channel.

SARS-CoV-2 variant prevalence in France – Kent variant in red (from CoVariant)

Here’s what the positivity rate does at the same time.

Government Regulations Add £360 to the Cost of a Trip to France

A reader has pointed out the additional costs suffered by British travellers to France because of Government regulations – specifically, the requirement to have three PCR tests at a minimum of £120 each.

If you want to come back from France to the UK you have to provide a negative PCR test. That costs a very reasonable € 15… in France 

But on your return to the UK, you have to undergo two more PCR tests, on day two and day five after you arrive. For some mysterious reason, the cheapest tests in the UK are £120(!) each from Boots (and ridiculous amounts more from other providers). Even the Boots “bargain basement” cost adds an outrageous £360 to the total cost of a trip to France, as, of course, you need a PCR test outward bound too!

My partner and I have written to our MP about this racketeering, but it’s obviously Government policy to deter people from going to deserted beaches abroad and to have them packed on British beaches instead.

We own a gîte in France and hate to think what our fully-booked summer will look like once a party of 10 realises that the Government has permitted £3,600 to be added to their bill!

If the Government sincerely wants to free us from our shackles, it should clamp down on this cynical profiteering and set up a simple system, as for the lorry drivers.

As Lord David Blunkett recently pointed out, travel restrictions imposed by the Government impact not only tourism (the topic which receives the most attention from the broadcast media) but also trade and aviation.

Italy and France to “Quickly Resume” AstraZeneca Rollout When EU Medicines Agency Gives Green Light

The leaders of Italy and France have made it clear that they will “quickly resume” their countries’ rollouts of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine when the European Medicines Agency gives the green light, as it’s expected to on Thursday. MailOnline has the story.

The leaders of Italy and France today committed to “quickly” resume inoculations of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine once the European regulator gives the all-clear. 

Italian PM Mario Draghi and French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to roll the pitch for an imminent climbdown.

On a call the two leaders agreed they were ready to resume using the jab “quickly” if the European Medicines Agency (EMA) gives the green light on Thursday.

Mario Draghi’s office said “the preliminary statement today from EMA was positive”. The EMA has found “no indication” that AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine is the cause of reported blood clots.

A top European Commission official today urged EU governments to stop sitting on their vaccine stockpiles.

Stella Kyriakides, the Health Commissioner, said the bloc was in a “race against time” to roll out the vaccine or face several more spikes in infections.

The EU has already seen a disastrous rollout of the vaccine across the continent, with just 8% of adults receiving a jab compared to a third in the UK.

There have been supply problems with both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer jabs, but it was revealed earlier that several countries including Germany are sitting on stockpiles.

“Even with the immense and regrettable challenges around production capacity and deliveries, there are reports of unused reservoirs of vaccines across the EU,” said Kyriakides following talks with European health ministers. …

While Italy has used all of its Pfizer jabs, the country still has 250,000 AstraZeneca vaccines that it banned from going to Australia in storage.

According to the Times, there are some 14.2 million jabs (60%) delivered to EU governments that are yet to be used. 

It seems as though this saga is coming to an end. But might another now commence over Pfizer’s Covid vaccine, which has been linked to more blood clots than AstraZeneca’s in reports from the UK? That’s unlikely given that the Chief of Italy’s medicines regulator has claimed that bans across Europe of the AstraZeneca vaccine were the results of “political” choices.

Worth reading in full.