Macron Bets Vaccines Will Kick In Soon in Rush to Reopen France
(Bloomberg) -- President Emmanuel Macron is betting an acceleration in France’s Covid vaccination campaign will offer enough relief in the coming weeks to allow for a progressive return to normal life, starting with the opening of terraces of bars and restaurants and businesses on May 19.
With presidential elections in just a year, and polls suggesting a tight race between Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen, the president’s ability to reopen the economy is likely to play a key role in shaping his political future. But his plan to lift all restrictions by June 30 comes with risks.
Here are four charts that show why:
The inoculation drive got off to a slow start, drawing fierce criticism from Le Pen -- she called it a “vaccination Waterloo,” referencing a famous French military defeat. While the campaign has picked up, France still trails the U.K. and Germany in the number of doses administered. Less than 10% of the population has received both jabs, and around 22% have received at least one shot. Macron has pledged that all willing adults will be vaccinated by the end of the summer. But he’s relying on an increase in supplies over the next few months to achieve that. Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker projects that at the current pace his goal won’t be reached for another seven months.
Hospitals across France, and especially in the worst-hit areas like the Paris region of Ile-de-France and Provence in the south, are still struggling. Almost 6,000 patients are currently in need of critical care -- before the pandemic, there were only about 5,000 ICU beds in the whole country. Officials have managed to temporarily increase capacity, but only by postponing surgeries or reallocating resources.
Death Toll Still Mounting
France became the eighth country to record more than 100,000 deaths earlier this month. It was a humbling moment for Macron, who refused to shutter the country for a third time in January despite calls to do so from the medical community and the government’s own scientific advisory committee. He argued it would be a last resort given the human and financial cost, opting instead to tighten curbs in hot spots before finally announcing a month-long closure mid-March. Though fatalities have been falling by about 20% over the past two weeks, around 285 deaths related to Covid are still being registered daily.
Stubborn Infection Rate
The spread of the virus remains high in France -- the government once said that an incidence rate above 50 was alarming, before placing that threshold, more recently, at 400. The number of daily positive cases is dropping but amounted to 29,000/day in the past week, down 11% amid a nationwide curfew in place from 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. and a ban on travels.
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