Covid-19: one million vaccinated in France, PCR tests at borders extended to Europeans

One million people have been vaccinated against coronavirus in France, which will extend, in the night from Saturday to Sunday, to a part of European travelers the obligation to submit a negative test to enter the country.

The government, which still hopes to counter the increasing pressure in hospitals and avoiding a third containment, had set the target of one million vaccines by the end of January.

On Saturday, in the middle of the afternoon, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced that it was done four weeks after the campaign began.

Earlier in the day, Minister for Industry Agnรจs Pannier-Runacher said she was โ€œreasonably confidentโ€ that France exceeds its target of vaccinating โ€œ15 million peopleโ€ by June.

She also wanted to be reassuring about the delivery of doses: โ€œWe have new vaccines coming, we have Pfizer that increases its production capacity,โ€ she added on France Inter.

For its part, the High Authority for Health (HAS) described Saturday as โ€œreasonableโ€ the possibility of spacing the two doses of Covid vaccines (instead of three to four weeks now) by six weeks, in order to protect the most vulnerable and cope with the โ€œepidemic outbreakโ€.

The extension of the injection time will โ€œspeed up the administration of the first dose to the most vulnerable peopleโ€, i.e., according to the HAS projections, at least 700,000 additional people โ€œwho would be protected by the vaccineโ€ during the first month of application of this measure.

On an individual scale, the โ€œrisk of loss of efficacyโ€ of the vaccine between two doses โ€œseems limitedโ€, says the HAS.

Regarding delays in delivery, which American Pfizer had reported for his vaccine developed with German BionTech, Ms Pannier-Runacher assured that there had been โ€œa slowdown last week, but that is caught up.โ€ AstraZeneca (whose vaccine awaits the green light from the European authorities, scheduled for the end of January) has warned of a โ€œdrop in yieldโ€ at a production site.

โ€” Controls at ports and airports โ€”

At the same time, instructions are multiplying on a reinforcement of barrier gestures, and the obligation to present a negative PCR test carried out 72 hours before entering the territory will be extended during the night from Saturday to Sunday.

Travellers from countries outside the European Union must already have a negative PCR test since mid-January. From midnight, this will also be the case for European travelers.

The controls will take place in ports and airports mainly, currently some 62,000 people per week according to the Minister Delegate in charge of Transport Jean-Baptiste Djebbari. Frontier workers and land transportation will be exempted.

Faced with the English variant, much more contagious, the hypothesis of a third containment is increasingly evoked, even if the Minister of Health, Olivier Vรฉran, said this week he wanted to โ€œgive his chanceโ€ to the curfew, set at 6:00 PM throughout France since January 16.

This English variant, present in France, is more contagious than previous virus mutations according to several studies. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson assured Friday that he also seemed more lethal (increased risk of death for the infected patient).

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that it has not yet read the new British elements and has not yet found that this variant was more lethal.

Health authorities scrutinize daily hospital data. However, the figures show an ever-strong pressure on services. On Saturday, hospitals had 25,864 patients with Covid-19, including 2,886 in resuscitation (the most severe cases). A week earlier, there were 24,985 hospitalized patients, of which 2,731 were in โ€œreaโ€. Over the last seven days, nearly 11,000 patients have entered the hospital.

As for masks, instructions differ. The government is calling on the public to ban certain cloth masks, including homemade ones, which are deemed not sufficiently filtering. The Academy of Medicine believes that this precautionary principle โ€œlack of scientific evidenceโ€ and that โ€œsuch a change in recommendations for a practice with which the general population had managed to become familiar with could lead to misunderstanding.โ€

WHO does not plan to change its recommendations on masks: those โ€œmade of tissue, non-surgical, can be used by all elderly people fromunder 60 years of age that do not present particular health problemsโ€.