The number of new coronavirus infections has been on the rise in France in the last two weeks, making it the only major European power seemingly unable to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, as the government remains reluctant to impose a national lockdown.
- The number of new daily infections, at more than 25,000 according to the latest data, is now three times higher than in the U.K. In mid-January, France’s tally amounted to only a third of the U.K.’s count.
- A deputy mayor of Paris asked today that the capital city be put into lockdown for three weeks, which he said would be more efficient than the current 6 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew currently in place nationwide.
- French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Thursday that a few regions might be ordered into complete lockdown next month “if the situation keeps deteriorating.”
- About half of all new cases registered in the country are now due to the U.K. coronavirus variant, Castex said.
- Less than 4% of the French population has received a dose in the two months since vaccines began to be distributed in the European Union, compared with 27% in the U.K.
Macron said on Friday that he would “of course” take, if offered when his time comes, the AstraZeneca–Oxford
shot he once derided, because its efficacy has “now been proven.”
- That came the day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she wouldn’t take the same vaccine, because she is 66 and the German medicines regulator hasn’t approved it for her age group.
The outlook: Macron has been criticized for playing electoral politics by voicing concerns about the vaccines, notably throwing doubt on the efficacy of the AstraZeneca–Oxford shot. And with regional elections in June, and his own re-election effort next year, he has seemed reluctant to take tougher measures for fear of a political backlash.
Contrary to most western leaders, Macron kept voicing his skepticism about the chances for vaccines to be developed quickly, and about their eventual efficacy and safety, throughout last year.
After being proved wrong, the French president then criticized scientists and France’s top medical authorities, who advised him back in January to impose a tight nationwide lockdown to curb the resurgence of the virus and its new variants.
The impact of the pandemic on the French economy hasn’t been worse, so far, than in other comparable European countries. But that may not last if France proves incapable of curbing the current wave, starting with an accelerated vaccination campaign.