Covid-19: French PM announces closure of border with UK, vows speedy approval of more vaccines

Prime Minister Jean Castex announced the closure of France’s border with the UK and outlined efforts to expand and fast-track vaccinations at a press briefing on Thursday as he warned of a worsening of the Covid-19 crisis in weeks to come.

The prime minister told a press conference on Thursday that the coronavirus health crisis in France had become even more “fragile” and it would be “out of the question to lower our guard in the weeks to come”. He vowed that more vaccines would be approved in France in the coming weeks.

France closed its border with Britain on December 20 after the emergence of a new UK strain of the disease and Castex said “this will be extended until further notice”.

Only certain categories of people, including truck drivers, are allowed through the border providing they have had a negative PCR test during the three preceding days.

Castex also announced bars, restaurants cinemas and ski stations would remain closed. He said a curfew already in place in several regions could be extended to include ten other departments.

Authorities reported 25,379 new daily cases and 291 deaths on Wednesday, with experts warning of a coming surge in the wake of extensive family travel over the holidays.

Worse to come for economy

Earlier Thursday, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire reiterated warnings of worse to come saying the Covid-19 crisis would almost certainly take an even bigger toll on the French economy this year than in 2020.

“We are dealing with a virus that isn’t going away,” Le Maire said.

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“There will be more bankruptcies in 2021 than in 2020… which will result in job losses over a certain period that will be difficult to absorb.”

The government has forecast economic growth of six percent this year, after an expected nine percent plunge last year.

France has spent billions of euros to limit job cuts and keep businesses from going under, in particular hotels and restaurants, cinemas and other cultural institutions, and the sports sector.

Restaurants and hotels, which are pushing to increase aid packages to three million euros per business, had been hoping to be allowed to reopen on January 20.

But officials have indicated that they are likely to remain closed as authorities brace for tougher Covid-19 restrictions, similar to those taken recently in England or Germany.

“We are not going to let them fail, we will spend the money that is necessary,” Le Maire said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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