Coronavirus live news: France prepares for mass vaccination programme from January

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France is preparing for a massive nationwide anti-Covid-19 vaccination programme as early as next year. The government says it is “in the starting blocks” to begin distributing any tested and available vaccine from January 2021 and has budgeted €1.5bn to buy the first available on the market.

For the moment, no vaccine has been approved but several are said to be nearing the end of testing. The French government says the vaccination campaign will be coordinated at European Union level and could begin in the most “optimist” scenario in the first quarter of next year.

“We’re preparing a campaign to be ready the moment a vaccine is approved by the European and national health authorities,” Gabriel Attal from the health ministry has said.

Jérôme Salomon, head of the French public health authority Santé Publique France, said the virus was making people psychologically as well as physically ill.

“The good news is the virus is slowing…but this epidemic is making people stressed and anxious,” Salomon said.

More than two weeks after a second national lockdown was introduced, Salomon claimed the number of people suffering from depression between the end of September and the beginning of November had doubled and was affecting all the population but particularly those in a “difficult financial situation, the vulnerable, the inactive and the young.

“We can all feel stressed, anxious or depressed,” he said advising people to keep a careful eye on family and friends for signs of depression. He also advised those feeling stressed or anxious should avoid continuously following news reports and to limit their consumption of tobacco and alcohol.

France topped two million confirmed cases of Covid-19, Salomon announced at a press conference on Tuesday, making it the fourth worst for infections in the world behind the United States, India and Brazil. He said there was an “unprecedented” number of hospital admissions of around 33,500. There were 437 hospital deaths in the previous 24 hours and 45,422 new confirmed contaminations, according to official figures.

France’s lockdown is set to end on 1 December, but the government has warned that the easing of restrictions will be progressive and it may be extended. Ministers have already stated that shops and businesses are likely to be allowed to open on 1 December but that bars and restaurants will remain closed until at least the start of the Christmas holidays and possibly later.

A special Defence Council meeting took place Wednesday morning to discuss what shops and business should be allowed to open and when. Among the measures being considered are a return of the nightly curfew and whether to allow special authorisations for people to travel to see relatives at Christmas.

Emmanuel Macron is expected to announce how the lockdown will be progressively lifted in a nationwide address next week.

“Restrictions will continue after the end of lockdown,” Jean Castex said adding that lockdown easing would happen in stages.

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