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France scraps COVID-19 capacity limits despite 'fourth wave' risk

France scraps COVID-19 capacity limits despite 'fourth wave' risk

People relax in chairs around a fountain in the Tuileries Garden in Paris, France, Jun 28, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier)

PARIS: France on Wednesday (Jun 30) ended most capacity limits imposed in April on restaurants, cinemas, stores and other public venues, although the measures were extended in parts of the southwest over the spread of the coronavirus Delta variant.

The move came as the doctor who heads President Emmanuel Macron's coronavirus advisory panel said a "fourth wave" of cases was likely this autumn.

"I think we'll have a fourth wave but it will be much more subdued than the three previous ones, because vaccination levels aren't the same," Jean-Francois Delfraissy told France Inter radio.

He said the steep drops seen recently in daily new cases were "false assurances" given the spread of the Delta variant in a country where just one-third of the population has been fully vaccinated with two doses.

READ: Delta COVID-19 variant threatens new pandemic challenge

Delfraissy also welcomed a plan by Health Minister Olivier Veran to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for health workers and retirement home staff if at least 80 per cent of them have not received the jabs by September.

Delfraissy had previously opposed any vaccine requirements but said: "A lot depends on what we do right now."

In the southwestern Landes department, which includes Bordeaux, officials said the capacity limits would be extended to Jul 6 because of "weak collective immunity" in the area.

Around 45 per cent of new cases are being caused by the Delta variant, which was first detected in India and has been blamed for an increase in daily COVID-19 deaths in Britain.

READ: Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine shows promise against Delta variant in lab study

Seven virus clusters have been discovered in businesses or retirement homes, Didier Couteaud of the regional health service in western France said during a video press conference.

An unvaccinated carer has been blamed for one of the retirement home outbreaks.

Elsewhere across France, events will no longer be limited to 1,000 people, whether indoors or outdoors, though participants will have to show proof of their COVID-19 inoculation, a negative test or a recent infection.

Professional sporting matches will no longer be limited to 5,000 people, though capacity limits may still be applied to the summer music festivals that traditionally attract huge crowds.

The next stage in the lifting of restrictions will see nightclubs reopen on Jul 9.

Face masks remain required in public indoor spaces and in crowds outdoors, however.

COVID-19 has claimed 111,086 lives in France.

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Source: AFP/dv

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