France tightens COVID-19 restrictions, steps up vaccine rollout


People, wearing protective face masks, walk on Parisian covered passages amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in France, March 2, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

PARIS - To contain the spread of new coronavirus variants in France, Prime Minister Jean Castex on Thursday announced weekend lockdown in more areas, tougher rules against social mixing in high-risk regions and faster vaccination rollout.

The northern department of Pas-de-Calais will move into lockdown starting this weekend. The incidence rate there hit 400 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, double the national average. The number of new infections surged by 23 percent in the last five days.

As in Alpes-Maritimes and Dunkirk, people in Pas-de-Calais have to stay at home from 6 am Saturday to 6 pm Sunday, announced Castex at the weekly press conference on the sanitary situation.

He said that three departments -- Hautes-Alpes, Aisne and Aube -- are added to the list of high-alert zones, where large malls will close and mask-wearing will be reinforced in all urban areas starting from Friday midnight.

Local authorities will have the power to impose a ban on public gatherings on weekends in most crowded areas in these departments "under reinforced surveillance," Castex said, calling on inhabitants to limit their travel as much as possible.

"Next weekends, even if you don't have to stay at home, limit your social interaction. We have to hold on together," said the prime minister.

"In one year, a lot has changed. We learned about the impact of lockdown, its social, economic, and human impact," he said, adding that another lockdown is "not impossible but it is not inevitable."

Viral circulation in France increased over a couple of weeks mainly due to the virus variant first spotted in Britain, which "now represents over 60 percent of infections," said Castex.

On Thursday, a further 25, 279 people tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the country's cumulative cases to over 3.8 million. The overall death toll reached 87,835 after 293 patients died over the past day, according to health authorities.

Currently, 24,891 patients are hospitalized, 3,633 of them in intensive care -- down by 220 and 4 respectively.

The virus continued to circulate, but it was not rising exponentially as some experts predicted, said Castex.

"The fastest and most targeted vaccine rollout will allow us to get out of the tunnel," he added.

To that end, France plans to inoculate 10 million citizens by mid-April, 20 million by mid-May and a total of 30 million, or two-thirds of the adults, by summer. So far, 3,235,684 people have received at least the first jab, and 1,781,750 of them have got both doses, according to the prime minister.

He added that vaccine deliveries "will increase in the coming weeks" to 22 million doses over the March-April period, compared with 7 million shots received during the first two months of the year.

An Elabe poll released on Wednesday found that 75 percent of French people believed that the government's vaccination rollout is very slow. The figure is 7 percentage points higher than the pollster's January survey.

Meanwhile, the share of respondents who want to be inoculated increased by two points to 50 percent, according to the poll.

As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, vaccination is underway in an increasing number of countries with the already-authorized coronavirus vaccines.

Meanwhile, 258 candidate vaccines are still being developed worldwide -- 76 of them in clinical trials -- in countries including Germany, China, Russia, Britain, and the United States, according to information released by the World Health Organization on March 2.

巴黎——为了遏制新冠状病毒变体在法国的传播,法国总理让·卡斯特克斯(Jean Castex)周四宣布,周末将在更多地区实施封锁,对高风险地区的社会融合实施更严格的规定,并加快疫苗接种的推广。从本周末开始,北部的加来海峡省将进入封锁状态。那里的发病率达到每10万居民400例,是全国平均水平的两倍。在过去的五天里,新感染人数激增了23%。卡斯特在每周一次的卫生状况新闻发布会上宣布,与阿尔卑斯-滨海时报和敦刻尔克一样,从周六上午6点至周日下午6点,加莱海峡的人们不得不呆在家里。他说,上阿尔卑斯、艾斯尼和奥布三个省被列入高警戒区,从周五午夜开始,大型商场将关闭,所有城市地区都将加强佩戴口罩。Castex说,在“加强监控”的情况下,地方当局将有权禁止周末在这些省份最拥挤的地区举行公共集会,并呼吁居民尽可能限制他们的旅行。“接下来的周末,即使不用呆在家里,也要限制社交。我们必须团结一致,”首相说。“一年之内,发生了很多变化。我们了解了封锁的影响,它的社会、经济和人类影响,”他说,并补充说,另一次封锁“不是不可能的,但也不是不可避免的。”卡斯特说,法国的病毒循环在几周内增加了,主要是因为在英国首次发现的病毒变体,“现在占感染的60%以上”。周四,又有25279人新冠肺炎检测呈阳性,使该国累计病例超过380万。根据卫生当局的数据,在过去的一天里,293名患者死亡,总死亡人数达到87,835人。目前,有24,891名患者住院,其中3,633人在重症监护室,分别减少了220人和4人。卡斯特说,病毒继续传播,但并没有像一些专家预测的那样呈指数级上升。“最快和最有针对性的疫苗推出将使我们走出隧道,”他补充说。为此,法国计划在4月中旬之前为1000万公民接种疫苗,在5月中旬之前为2000万公民接种疫苗,在夏季之前为总共3000万人接种疫苗,占成年人的三分之二。根据总理的说法,到目前为止,3235684人至少接受了第一针,其中1781750人同时接受了两种剂量。他补充说,在3月至4月期间,疫苗交付“将在未来几周内”增加到2200万剂,而今年前两个月收到了700万剂疫苗。周三公布的一项埃拉贝民意调查发现,75%的法国人认为政府的疫苗接种推广非常缓慢。这一数字比民意调查机构1月份的调查高出7个百分点。与此同时,根据民意调查,希望接种疫苗的受访者比例增加了两个百分点,达到50%。随着世界努力遏制这一流行病,越来越多的国家正在接种已经授权的冠状病毒疫苗。与此同时,根据世界卫生组织3月2日发布的信息,世界各地仍在开发258种候选疫苗,其中76种正在德国、中国、俄罗斯、英国和美国等国进行临床试验。

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