Evening Update Thursday 7 January 2021

French Prime Minister Jean Castex and Health Minister Olivier Veran have been holding a press conference this evening. The Prime Minister said that 2021 will be "the year of hope, particularly thanks to the vaccination campaign". He added that "we hope to get out of the crisis by next summer".

He said the health situation had "become more fragile" in recent weeks and there is currently strong pressure on the hospital system with almost 2,500 new hospitalizations every day and more than 200 intensive care admissions. The situation is deteriorating in some areas more than others, for example in the east of France.

The Prime Minister said that the "closure" of the border with the UK is extended until further notice. Persons authorized to travel from the UK will automatically have to present a negative test taken before departure upon entering French territory. He said that 19 cases of the English variant of the virus had been detected but he expects that more will be identified. Three cases of the South African variant have been identified.

He said that establishments which are closed today must remain closed. Museums, cinemas and sports facilities will have to remain closed until the end of this month and that re-opening of these establishments isn't realistic at the moment.

Ski lifts "won't be able to reopen immediately" but this will be reviewed on 20 January. The position regarding cultural venues, restauants and bars will also be reviewed on that date. He said that the reopening of bars and restaurants as well as sports halls "is postponed until mid-February".

The curfew will be extended until 20 January. A decision will be taken tomorrow on whether to introduce a 6pm curfew in ten further departments.

As regards vaccinations, the Prime Minister admitted that the campaign had got off to a slower start than other countries. He said that the priority remains to vaccinate the 15 million elderly and chronically ill people as soon as possible.

Those people aged 75 and over will be able to be vaccinated from Monday 18 January.

Olivier Veran said that 25,000 people have been vaccinated today but the government wants to go faster. 600 vaccination centres are expected to be open by the end of January. He said that health authorities have authorised the administration of the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine after "six weeks instead of three", in order to vaccinate the greatest number of people. He added that a system will be set up from 14 January wherby people can telephone to make a vaccination appointment or register on the website sante.fr

The Health Minister said that the health situation "must be extremely serious" to close schools because "the consequences of such a closure are dramatic".

The Mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, has given an update on the coronavirus vaccination campaign. He said that as soon as the vaccines promised by central government have been received, Nice will be able to vaccinate 50,000 people per week. As of today, the city's vaccination center at rue Hancy is receiving eligible people by appointment. From Monday, vaccination centres will be opening the Palais des Expositions, the Nikaïa and the Théâtre de Verdure. The mayor said that "in about ten days" they will start the campaign for people over 75 years old, excluding nursing homes and hospitals. This comprises 35,000 people and they will be able to be vaccinated "as soon as we have the green light" from the Regional Health Agency. The mayor said that sanitised buses are being equipped to deliver vaccines to the municipalities in the middle and high country. This morning vaccines were transported to Saint-Etienne-de-Tinée for nursing home residents. He revealed that 25,000 people have now registered on the Nice government vaccination website. Residents who have registered are notified as soon as they fall into one of the categories of people eligible for vaccination and can then make an appointment. The website address is https://vaccincovid19.nice.fr/VC19/

Meanwhile, a vaccination centre is opening on Saturday for eligible people at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes . The Mayor of Cannes David Lisnard said that the centre is indispensable to effectively fight the virus, implement a mass vaccination campaign and offer all those who want to be vaccinated a suitable and secure centre.

Four people have been arrested in connection with an illegal New Year's party in north-west France. A 22 year old man, alleged to be one of the organisers, has already been charged with offences in connection with the event near Rennes which was attended by over 2,000 people. He denies the allegations.

Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi has been visiting the site of major construction works in the Vesubie Valley. A landslide occurred downstream of Cros d'Utelle in early December, damaging the roadway and guard rails and causing boulders to fall into the river. A temporary track 900 meters long and 6 meters wide is being built which will allow access to the valley from the Plan-du-Var from February but only with minimal traffic.

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