FRANCE could face being under Covid restrictions for a year even with a vaccine being available.
It may take until autumn next year before normal life returns, a senior adviser to the French government said on Friday.
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“Vaccines are a major source of hope but if you look at the vaccination capabilities that we will have in France and elsewhere in Europe, we will need time,” immunologist Jean-Francois Delfraissy told BFM television.
“The production of vaccines will be slower than envisioned 15 days or three weeks ago,” he said. “We will not face a vaccine shortfall but we will have something that is more spread out over time.”
Delfraissy estimated there were 22million people in France more vulnerable than others and that it could take until May to vaccinate them all, before shots could be rolled out to others.
Asked if this meant the French would continue facing restrictions in their daily lives to fight Covid-19 infections until autumn 2021, he said: “More or less.”
People in France could start receiving the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech in the last week of December if the European Union approves it next week, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Wednesday.
France recorded 18,254 new Covid-19 cases over the past 24 hours, health director Jerome Salomon said on Thursday, the highest daily tally since November 20.
France ranks fifth globally for cases with more than 2.42 million so far.
The move comes as a number of European countries rush to introduce new restrictive measures as cases across the continent rise.
In Sweden, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven announced that the wearing of masks would be made compulsory on public transport at a press conference today.
The rule is part of a raft of measures that will come into effect on December 24 which include new work-from home orders, distance learning for some school students, a ban on alcohol sales after 8pm and new capacity restrictions on restaurants and shops.
The measures mark a significant u-turn in the country’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic with virus expert Anders Tegnell arguing masks do not work.
He previously told people to “look at what happened in countries with facemask policies” to see whether or not they are effective.
Tegnell though was publicly rebuked by King Carl XVI Gustaf who said the country’s policy had “failed” and people had “suffered tremendously”.
The change in policy comes after hospitals in Stockholm issued a warning over intensive care beds, which are now more than 90 per cent occupied.
Austria has also ordered a national Covid lockdown which will start on December 26 and last until January 24.
The country’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz also announced that mass testing would be available from January 18, with the possibility of free tests.
In Switzerland, restaurants were told today they must close from Tuesday along with indoor sports and recreation facilities, with people urged to stay at home.
It was revealed today that the bodies of Covid victims were being stored in shipping containers as the country faces lockdown till Easter because of a spiralling death toll.
Refrigerated metal containers have been placed at a cemetery in Hanau because overstretched hospital mortuaries are already full, say officials.
There are fears its new lockdown could be extended from January 10 until Easter after the country’s coronavirus death tally soared by nearly 1,000 in a single day.
But it entered a strict lockdown on Wednesday after infections and deaths soared in a deadly second wave.
The number of deaths now sits at 24,938 after a further 813 were recorded, says Germany’s Robert Koch Institute, the country’s disease control centre.
And a record number of deaths was reported on Tuesday, with 910 new fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The country’s Covid tally rose by 33,777 confirmed cases, bringing the total to 1.4million.
The country recorded 179.8 virus infections per 100,000 residents over the past seven days.
In Spain, travel between regions has been banned over the holidays with gatherings limited to a maximum of ten people from two households until at least January 11.
Italian officials are due to make a decision on their Christmas restrictions today, with the two main plans under consideration: to plunge the whole country into strict measures until January – or to leave a small window open to socialise between December 28 and 30.
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The World Health Organisation’s regional director for Europe Hans Kluge said “the safest thing to do is to remain at home” over Christmas.
Dr Kulge added: “There remains a difference between what you are being permitted to do by your authorities and what you should do.
“We have a few more months of sacrifice ahead and can behave now in a way that collectively we are proud of. When we look back at these unprecedented times, I hope we all felt we acted with a spirit of shared humanity to protect those in need.”