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France: No preventive lockdown ahead of Christmas

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There will be no “preventive” nationwide lockdown in France before Christmas, Health Minister Olivier Véran said on Sunday, adding that any restriction of movement during the late October All Saints holidays would depend on “what we do” in the coming days.

“What happens at the end of October will depend on what we do in the next few days and weeks,” the minister said on Le Grand Jury RTL-Le Figaro-LCI, a popular French TV programme. “If the spread of the virus increases and it is not curbed, if we do not deploy all the means necessary to curb its spread, that will endanger our health system and the French people themselves,” he added.

Asked about a proposal by Nobel Prize in Economics winners Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo to impose a nationwide lockdown in the first 20 days of December to enable French people to get together with their families during the Christmas holidays, Véran ruled out such a scenario.

“We do not want to bring the French people’s economic, social, cultural, sporting and family life to a halt,” he said. “That’s why we are taking decisions that are adapted to the seriousness of the moment” and are “territorialised,” he argued.

This week, the Aix-Marseille metropolitan area and Guadeloupe have been placed under “maximum alert,” which entails extremely strict measures such as the total closure of bars and restaurants for two weeks. Paris and 10 other cities are under “heightened alert,” which means they are also subject to strict measures, but these are less stringent than in the “maximum alert” zones.

Véran also urged health-care personnel to “protect themselves and protect their patients” by taking the influenza vaccine when the vaccination campaign begins on 13 October. He warned that it was useless to take the vaccine before the campaign started since that would reduce its effectiveness.

The ‘flu epidemic has spread later than usual to the Southern Hemisphere this year. It usually “arrives in France on 20 December,” but “could arrive a bit later (this year), perhaps in January,” the minister said.

The Brussels Times