France can avoid a return to confinement and still save Christmas -PM – .

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France can avoid a return to confinement and still save Christmas -PM – .


People, wearing protective masks, walk near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in France, December 6, 2021. REUTERS / Gonzalo Fuentes

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PARIS, December 6 (Reuters) – France will close nightclubs before Christmas and tighten social distancing measures in response to the emerging Omicron variant of the coronavirus, but there is no need for further closures or curfews, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Monday.

Castex said a fifth wave of the pandemic is now sweeping across the country. But he said that with 52 million people now vaccinated – almost 90% of those eligible – the situation is better than in previous outbreaks and that drastic action is not needed to save Christmas.

Health Minister Olivier Veran said the combination of vaccination reminders and more stringent social distancing would allow France to avoid new lockdowns currently imposed in several European countries.

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“We want to get through this wave of pandemic without new constraints on the entire French population, whether vaccinated or not,” he said.

From Friday, nightclubs will be closed for four weeks and the government also called on citizens to voluntarily limit private and professional gatherings, while toughening mask-wearing requirements in schools.

From December 15, children aged 5 to 11 who are overweight or have a serious health problem will be offered access to vaccination. Children over 12 can already be vaccinated.

Veran said France will receive its first shipments of Pfizer COVID vaccines for children from December 13 and that he hopes the vaccines will be available for all children from December 20.

There are around six million children aged 5 to 11 in France, and 350,000 in this age group who are overweight or have serious health problems.

Veran also said France had identified 25 positive cases of the Omicron variant – 21 imported by people returning from southern Africa and the rest the result of local infection.

He said the infection rate had started to slow down, but remained high. On Monday, the seven-day moving average of new cases rose 44% from the previous week, down from weekly increases of more than 80% seen two weeks ago.

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Report by Geert De Clercq and Marc Angrand Editing by Mark Heinrich

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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