Too early to relax coronavirus restrictions, says French health minister

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PARIS, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) — France will not let its guard down against the coronavirus epidemic, Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Thursday, as more infectious virus strains continue to circulate and risk to overwhelm hospitals.

“If many French people hope a return to a normal life… nothing would be worse than lifting restrictions…too early,” said Veran at a weekly briefing on the coronavirus crisis.

“Relaxing rules now is taking the risk to implement tougher restrictions in the near future, to take the risk of having held together for so long time in vain,” he said. “Our efforts have paid off but the game is not won yet.”

On Thursday, France confirmed 22,501 new infections, down from 25,018 a day before. The new daily tally pushed the country’s total to above 3.53 million, the world’s sixth highest after the United States, India, Brazil, Russia and the United Kingdom.

Another 271 fatalities were reported in the past 24 hours, taking the death toll to 83,393. Admissions to hospitals fell for a third straight day to 25,762, including 3,394 in resuscitation units.

The coronavirus variant first detected in Britain accounts for 36 percent of the total positive cases, against 25 percent a week ago. Five percent of cases were caused by the new variants first identified in South Africa and Brazil, according to Veran.

“Uncertainty over the variants should incite us to be absolutely vigilant,” said the minister. “We have not got out of the second wave. We still have to hold together to get out of the danger zone.”

In this context, Veran announced longer self-isolation period from 7 days to 10 starting from Feb. 20 for those who tested positive for the virus. As for those presumed to have been in contact with someone with the virus, they have to self-quarantine for seven days.

France has opted for a gradual vaccination campaign focusing first on the most vulnerable aged over 75. By far, more than 75 percent of the elderly in nursing homes have received at least one dose of vaccine, according to the minister.

The government aims to extend vaccination to those aged between 65 and 74 years by the end of March.

To date, France has administered 2,472,808 first shots, while 1,040,773 people have received their second.

As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, vaccination is underway in some countries with the already-authorized coronavirus vaccines.

Meanwhile, 250 candidate vaccines are still being developed worldwide — 69 of them in clinical trials — in countries including Germany, China, Russia, Britain and the United States, according to information released by the World Health Organization on Tuesday. Enditem

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