French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday that vaccinations against COVID-19 will be open to all adults from June 15, as he aims to quickly reopen the country as it battles a third coronavirus wave.
People over 50 can meanwhile sign up for a jab from May 15, he added on Twitter, compared to an age limit of 55 currently.
Health Minister Olivier Veran said earlier that vaccinations would be open this weekend to another four million people in France, with people aged 18-50 with chronic illnesses, such as heart conditions, high blood pressure or obesity, now eligible.
More than 15 million people have received a first COVID jab in France, or 29 percent of the adult population, but so far the jabs have been reserved for the elderly, people with underlying medical conditions or pregnant women.
That includes some 6.2 million people—just under 12 percent of adults—who have also received a second dose.
There was an accumulated 5.6 million confirmed COVID cases in France on Thursday, according to the health authorities, 26,538 more than the previous day.
The French death toll stood at 104,253, up 321 over the previous 24 hours.
‘Cautious and pragmatic’
Meanwhile, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said Friday that the government’s timetable for lifting COVID restrictions was “cautious and pragmatic,” a day after Macron announced a staged phase-out of current measures.
Museums, theatres, cinemas and concert halls will reopen with limited capacity on May 19, along with non-essential shops and outdoor seating at cafes and restaurants, Macron said.
Cafes and restaurants will have to wait until June 9 to be allowed to serve clients indoors.
A current 7:00 pm curfew will be progressively eased—to 9:00 pm on May 19 and 11:00 pm on June 9—before being fully lifted on June 30.
Attal said infection trends had been slowing for several weeks and the vaccination drive was gathering pace, which he said justified looser rules.
After one year of restrictions, “French people want their lives to return to normal progressively and we must take that into account”, he said.
Attal’s comments followed some criticism from opposition politicians of Macron’s announcement.
Socialist party chief Olivier Faure warned that the government should avoid a rerun of “the risks it took in January,” a reference to Macron’s refusal at the time to respond to rising infections figures with a lockdown.
Others called for faster vaccinations, while centre-right deputy Guillaume Larrive said he was “still worried” by the latest pandemic data.