RFI:- France is easing Covid-19 restrictions from Wednesday as part of a two-tier plan to scrap the need for mandatory outdoor masks and lift rules on working from home. The move comes despite a record number of infections last month, with Covid-related hospitalisations also on the rise.
The second step will take place on 16 February with the reopening of nightclubs and the removal of audience capacity limits for concert halls, sporting matches and other events.
Eating and drinking will also be permitted in stadiums, cinemas and public transport.
France “will be able to lift most of the restrictions taken to curb the epidemic in February” thanks to the new vaccination pass, which replaced the health pass, Prime Minister Jean Castex said in January.
A Defence Council meeting is being held Wednesday as the government considers easing health protocols in primary schools once all pupils have returned from their winter holiday break on 7 March.
As things stand, students from the first grade and up are required to wear masks, and to carry out three self Covid tests if another child in their class returns a positive result.
In an interview with the Voix du Nord newspaper, President Emmanuel Macron said he wanted schools to be given advanced notification of any rule changes.
“I think a lot about our children, their families and teachers,” he said. “A lot has been asked of them.”
The teachers’ unions will be consulted, starting Thursday, but several are already raising concerns that the easing of protocols appears too hasty given the level of virus circulation.
“A full class for several days in a row has not happened for a long time,” say many teachers, with the official number of classroom cases still breaking records.
In other rule changes, FFP2 masks, which do not belong to the national stock, will be made free in pharmacies for people with compromised immune systems, while vaccination passes are to be introduced in French Polynesia.
“Given the consistent increase in Covid cases in French Polynesia over the past several weeks, the vaccine pass will apply from February 8 to anyone over 16 years,” said High Commissioner Dominique Sorain.
Meanwhile the newspaper La Provence reported that a new anti-Covid pill – effective against all variants – was being tested in Marseille.
Scientists at Aix-Marseille University, AMU, and the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) have been “quietly” working on the pill since the pandemic began, the paper reported.
Published Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature Communications, the study focuses on bemnifosbuvir, an antiviral treatment already in clinical trials for hepatitis C.