With Covid-19 cases reaching a plateau in France, it appears bars and restaurants will remain closed beyond the target date of January 20. The news comes as the government tries to restart a vaccination strategy that has been widely criticized as too slow.
At the end of November, President Emmanuel Macron defined 3 stages for the reopening of the country after its second lockdown when daily cases peaked at 86,852 on November 7. But after the first step which allowed many local businesses to reopen, France’s case stopped. falling and eventually settled into a more or less steady rate of 15,000 per day.
This convinced the government to allow domestic travel during the winter holidays. But many projected that this would virtually guarantee that case rates don’t drop enough to meet the Jan. 20 targets.
According to the newspaper Le Monde, representatives of restaurant and bar associations met this week with French Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire who told them in private that they would not be allowed to reopen on January 20.
The government is trying at all costs to avoid a 3rd national lockout. In addition, the first case of the new Covid variant in France is stirring up new fears.
An official announcement on bars and restaurants is expected on Thursday.
“Mr. Le Maire said he was very concerned about the health situation and explained to us that he could not give us any perspective,” said Didier Chenet, president of the GNI hotel union, to Le Monde.
The hospitality industry is pushing for greater economic support amid widespread fear that the protracted crisis will destroy the industry as owners struggle to pay fixed costs.
The situation is also likely to prevent ski resorts from reopening this month, even as local and regional officials push for some easing of restrictions.
Vaccination strategy 2.0
Meanwhile, the government was still reeling from criticism that its vaccination strategy was flawed. After several days of trying to mount a response, government officials vowed to speed up the program by sending more doses of the vaccine to health centers for frontline workers.
Health Minister Olivier Véran also said the government will launch an online registration system for people. Part of the roadblock was for people to see their doctors before getting vaccinated. The new system will allow a wider range of consultations to reduce barriers.
While it will take some time for these measures to materialize, France has vaccinated 5,000 people in the past 24 hours, a marked increase from the roughly 500 vaccinated in the first few days. Yet it is well below the pace needed to reach the stated goal of one million people vaccinated by the end of February.
Amid the scramble to get the vaccine distributed, many worried not only about the economic implications, but also about the blow to France’s international image.
“Our duty is to get out of this impasse and to succeed as best we can with this vaccination campaign”, declared the mayor of Cannes David Lisnard on Europe 1. “People are confronted with the disease, with the economic crisis. But also for the image of our country: we cannot continue like this. ”