Speaking in a televised address after meeting with President Emmanuel Macron and senior ministers, Castex said that officials had decided against introducing a new national lockdown in a drastic bid to curb new COVID infections.
Instead, tighter border controls are being introduced alongside tougher action against covid rule-breakers.
“We know the grave impact [lockdown has]. Tonight, looking at the data of the past few days, we consider that we can still give ourselves a chance to avoid one,” the PM said, while outlining the new measures.
He said that, starting from midnight on Sunday, a ban will be in place on anyone arriving from outside the EU or leaving France for a non-EU country, apart from essential travel.
Travelers coming in from EU states will need to show evidence of a negative PCR test.
Meanwhile, working from home must be supported wherever possible by companies in France, Castex added.
More police will be mobilized to ensure adherence to the existing 12-hour overnight curfew, Castex said, warning that “particular firmness” would be shown to anyone not complying, or who was gathering for illegal parties.
“As of this Sunday, non-food shopping centers with a surface area of more than 20,000 square meters, which most favor the mixing of populations, will be closed,” he added.
France is among the countries hardest-hit by the pandemic, ranking sixth in the world for Covid cases and seventh for deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. More than 3.2 million cases have been recorded by French health workers, with over 75,700 people dying with COVID.
Meanwhile, the state’s vaccine drive has hit stumbling blocks due to shortages in supplies from Pfizer and Moderna, with some French regions suspending new inoculations temporarily so as to guarantee second doses for those who have already received their first.
Header: Nurses take care of a patient suffering from COVID-19 at the emergency unit of La Timone hospital in Marseille, southeastern France, on September 11, 2020. (Photo by Christophe SIMON / AFP)
Two more local public health agencies in France are suspending people’s appointments for receiving their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine made by Pfizer-BioNTech, due to supply shortages.
The eastern Bourgogne-Franche-Comte region and the Île-de-France area surrounding Paris both said on Thursday that they would be axing COVID immunization appointments.
The Parisian ARS health agency said injections of first doses will stop there from February 2 and hospitals won’t receive deliveries for the time being, although already-arranged second-dose appointments will still go ahead.
A spokesperson for ARS Bourgogne-Franche-Comte said that some bookings in February would be “postponed for a few days or weeks,” but that “no appointment will be canceled.”
The ARS health agency for the northern Hauts-de-France region said earlier this week that all of its first-dose appointments until February 2 would be rescheduled for the first week of March.
Officials said the move, prompted by Pfizer supply shortages, would allow those who have already been injected to get their second dose, adding that appointments from February 3 to 15 would be honored.
The company announced earlier this month that there would be shortages to several European nations and Canada, as it upped production capacity for the vaccine at its plant in Belgium.
Meanwhile, Switzerland’s health ministry said on Thursday it has been told by drugmaker Moderna that deliveries of its COVID-19 vaccine will be delayed, meaning the country may now not hit its target of one million doses in February.
There is also an ongoing row between Europe’s other vaccine heavyweight, AstraZeneca, and the EU, after the bloc accused the company of reneging on its delivery promises when informed by the pharma firm of delays to scheduled deliveries.