The sequence would now be almost ritualistic. Jean Castex, facing the camera, surrounded by several of his ministers successively speaking. The fight against the Covid-19 pandemic is a long-term job, including for the French, and the government announced this Thursday evening a new round of measures aimed at avoiding a new epidemic surge.
The tenant of Matignon was even surrounded this Thursday evening by six ministers. It was therefore written that the evening announcements would embrace many themes. It’s confirmed. Curfews, vaccines, cultural places, restaurants, economic support… The spectrum of this speech was indeed very broad. Here is the summary of the announcements.
The 6 p.m. curfew extended to the whole of France
It is no longer really a surprise, but the information, discussed and debated until late, needed confirmation. The curfew will indeed be advanced to 6 p.m. throughout the territory from Saturday. It is currently scheduled to last 15 days. A date that could obviously change depending on the health situation.
Since January 2, several departments that were suffering from a high incidence have already switched to what at the time was only an exceptional measure. They were located mainly in the eastern half of the country. The exception therefore becomes the rule.
“It appears that this measure has health efficiency. In the first 15 departments where the curfew was implemented at 6 p.m., the increase in the number of new cases is two to three times lower, assures Jean Castex. We will therefore apply this measure throughout the country, ”he adds, referring to a stronger epidemic dynamic now in the west of the country. This measure aims to avoid “even more difficult” measures. As of 6 p.m., all businesses will have to close their doors.
“The health situation does not require the establishment of a new confinement”, details Jean Castex. But if the situation worsens, the government says it is ready to resort to it “without delay”.
The epidemic situation worries
The government does not hide its fears vis-à-vis the epidemic evolution in the country. For several weeks, the number of new contaminations has remained well above the 15,000 cases per day on average. Hospital tension remains very real.
“The first data available to us show that we were able to spend the end of year celebrations without an epidemic outbreak,” said Jean Castex, adding that the situation was better than in many of our neighbors. Nevertheless, “we remain on a high plateau,” he concedes. The pressure on our hospitals is at a stable but high plateau, ”he added. Before summarizing: the situation is “under control” but “fragile”.
Above all, the circulation of the British variant in the country has undoubtedly forced the executive to be extra vigilant. Olivier Véran confirmed that the British variant is “probably” more contagious, especially in children, without giving more serious forms than the strain currently dominant in France. The second variant, which came from South Africa, is also considered to be more contagious. Uncertainties remain about its contagiousness.
Strengthening border controls
The arrival on French soil of the virulent British strain could not be prevented by the measures currently in force. The government, this Thursday evening, therefore decided to further strengthen the control of arrivals on French soil.
He announced this Thursday evening a strengthening of border controls. “From Monday, all travelers who wish to come to France will have to take a test before leaving. People will have to commit on their honor to isolate themselves for seven days and to do a PCR test at the end of this period, ”said Jean Castex.
Regarding travelers coming from within the European Union, the government says it is working on a specific framework. A negative test will be required to reach Guyana, Mayotte and Reunion from the metropolis.
New acceleration of vaccination
It had been acquired for a week that those over 75 could be vaccinated from Monday, January 18. “At the end of January, we will be above one million people vaccinated, which was our initial target,” says Jean Castex.
But the government has decided to accelerate even more by opening this Monday, January 18 vaccination to people with pathologies at “high risk of developing a serious form of the disease”. This is the case for people with Down’s syndrome or suffering for example from renal failure. This Thursday, Olivier Véran presented the terms of this new stage.
In concrete terms, people eligible for vaccination will be able to register by telephone, directly with vaccination centers or by calling 0800 009 110, reachable from Friday morning. A dedicated site, www.sante.fr has also been deployed for this purpose and lists all the vaccination centers. Jean Castex, in view of the demand and the risk of an influx, has already indicated that it will be necessary to be patient to get an appointment and get bitten. “Not everyone will be able to find a date immediately,” he explains. Appointments can initially be made for the next four weeks.
Reinforced protocol in schools, colleges and high schools
“We want to do everything to avoid the closure of schools,” said Jean-Michel Blanquer, who says he wants to do everything to avoid the closure of schools. The health protocol is therefore reinforced. School and extracurricular sports activities will therefore be prohibited in a closed environment. Indoor PE lessons will therefore be prohibited.
High schools that wish to continue in hybrid operation can continue to do so. In colleges, the hybrid mode may also be decided, but in “exceptional circumstances”. It can only concern 4th and 3rd year students.
As for schools, Jean-Michel Blanquer announced this Thursday evening a strengthening of the health protocol in school canteens. The Minister of National Education proposes the staggering of service times to avoid contact. “There will be no mixing possible between the classes,” said the minister.
Finally, massive testing operations will be carried out. Tests will therefore be carried out from the age of six. The government has set a target of 300,000 tests performed each week. The closure of establishments therefore remains to this day a limit that the executive is not yet ready to cross.
Faculty: resumption by half-group of tutorials in the first year
The government has decided to postpone the resumption of face-to-face classes in universities. The demand from students is strong, while many of them suffer particularly from this forced isolation and distance learning. But health fears have taken over.
“Many students feel a deep feeling of isolation and for certain deep psychological difficulties”, deplores Jean Castex. As of the week of January 25, tutorials for first-year students and only them will be able to resume in half-groups. Individual or collective screening will be deployed and antigenic tests should be made available on campuses.
No return date for restaurants and cultural venues
The government no longer wishes to engage in specific perspectives from a calendar point of view. While the threat of an epidemic resumption looms, the executive refused this Thursday evening to give a date for the reopening of these establishments. The same goes for gyms.
The words this week of Roselyne Bachelot left few doubts about the case of cultural places, whether museums, theaters and other cinemas. It would be “totally irresponsible” to embark on such specific perspectives, she said this week before the National Assembly’s commission of inquiry. For the world of Culture, Roselyne Bachelot says she is working on a protocol to reopen and return to normal functioning once the acute crisis of the epidemic has passed.
“At this point, we just know that reopening is ruled out this month. Difficult given the uncertainties to answer these questions, ”confesses Jean Castex.
Extension and new aid to companies
In this regard, the government can only reaffirm the support plan for companies forced to remain without clauses or suffering from restrictions and curfew, which will be maintained as long as the health restrictions persist. “We are acutely aware of the weariness, anger and despair” of professionals affected by the restrictions, admitted Bruno Le Maire.
Three changes are integrated into the solidarity fund mechanism:
Bruno Le Maire also returned to loans guaranteed by the State, while some companies could be required to repay their first installments in a few months. The government proposes to them to postpone these first deadlines by one year. For other loans, the minister ensures that he has reached an agreement with banking institutions to allow companies to benefit from moratoriums or postponement of payment.
In addition, exemptions from social contributions and aid for their payment are maintained for businesses closed or heavily penalized by the health crisis. Bruno Le Maire recalls that all this aid costs the State some 4 billion euros per month. He pledged on behalf of the government not to increase taxes on the French.
The Minister of Labor Elisabeth Borne, for her part, confirmed the continuation of partial unemployment. For companies totally closed or partially closed, the coverage will remain at 100%. For companies in protected sectors (hotels or event professionals), this full coverage will be valid until the end of February. Then, the remainder to be paid by the employer will be 15%, except if the companies have suffered a drop in their turnover of more than 80%. For all other businesses, the remainder will drop to 15% at the end of February, and 40% from March.