Emmanuel Macron has called for an acceleration of Covid-19 booster shots for elderly and vulnerable people in France and announced that many citizens will need a third vaccination for a valid health pass from next month.
In a televised address, the French president said “the pandemic is not over” and warned of the emergence of a fifth wave of infections in Europe, citing a significant rise in cases in the UK and Germany. He said the incidence rate of Covid infections in France had also recently risen.
In a speech from the Élysée Palace – his ninth televised speech to the nation since the start of the pandemic – Macron said mask-wearing would be maintained in schools, and social distancing and mask-wearing in enclosed public spaces must continue. He said vaccination would be stepped up, adding: “To those not yet vaccinated: get vaccinated. Get vaccinated to protect yourselves. Get vaccinated to live normally.”
Although 75% of French people have received two doses of vaccine, the campaign to administer a third booster shot six months after the first has not been quickly taken up by those who are eligible. A third dose is currently available to those aged over 65 or with medical conditions that make them vulnerable, such as heart or respiratory problems. But only about half of those eligible have booked a third injection.
To accelerate this, Macron said that booster shots will be extended to those aged 50 and over from early December. Those aged over 65 would from 15 December have to give proof of a Covid booster shot in order to maintain their health passes.
The health pass – required to enter restaurants and bars, to go to the gym, a conference or the library, and for long-distance train and plane journeys – provides proof that a person has been vaccinated against Covid-19, has recently had a negative coronavirus test or has newly recovered from the virus. Its use is likely to stay in place for many months to come. Macron said controls of health passes would be stepped up.
“It’s thanks to vaccination, the health pass, and social-distancing measures that we can continue to live and not shut down activities,” he said.
Macron warned: “We will have to live with variants until the global population is immunised.”
The new rule for over-65s will further tighten what is one of the strictest regimes in Europe. There were protests in France when the measures were first introduced over the summer but they have since diminished.
Before the president spoke, there had been a rush this week by people over the age of 65 to book booster jabs, fearing they could lose their health passes if they had not received a third injection.
The centrist Macron, who is expected to run for re-election next spring, once again used a televised speech on Covid to attempt to shift his image from health-crisis manager back to that of the reformist he had promised to be before the pandemic.
He vaunted the country’s rise in economic growth and job creation and said France “for the first time in decades” would launch a programme to build new nuclear reactors to help lessen its dependence on foreign countries for energy.
But he said his proposed overhaul of the complex pensions system – which had been a key part of his 2017 election platform but had stalled at the start of the Covid lockdowns in 2020 – could not be launched this year.
He pushed it forward to a possible second term saying: “From 2022 onwards, we will need to make clear decisions regarding the reform of the pension system.”