Macron warns virus is ‘not behind us;’ urges vaccination

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French President Macron attends a Defense Council at Fort de Bregancon

French President Emmanuel Macron attends a Defense Council at the Fort de Bregancon in Bormes-les-Mimosas, southern France Wednesday Aug. 11, 2021. Local authorities in the French Caribbean island of Martinique have asked tourists to leave as the territory is tightening its lockdown amid a rapid surge of COVID-19 cases. France has called on volunteer doctors and nurses to travel to the overseas territories to help taking care of patients in almost saturated hospitals. (Eric Gaillard/Pool photo via AP)

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron warned Wednesday that the virus crisis “is not behind us” after attending a government meeting focused on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Macron urged all French people who are eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine. For several weeks, France has faced an increase in number of daily infections, driven by the highly contagious delta variant, which now accounts for most new cases. France is reporting over 22,000 new confirmed cases each day on average.

“The health crisis is not behind us, very clearly … We will live for several more months with this virus,” he said.

About 45 million people in France — 67% of the population — have now received at least one virus shot and 56% are fully vaccinated.

France is now requiring people to show a QR code proving they have a special virus pass before they can enter restaurants and cafes or travel by plane, train or bus across the country. The measure is part of a government plan to encourage more people to get a COVID-19 vaccine shot and slow down the spread of the virus.

French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal announced Wednesday that in some regions where the epidemic is spreading more rapidly, the virus pass will be needed in big shopping malls. The measure has already been in place since July for cultural and recreational venues like concerts and sports arenas.

The pass is issued to people who are vaccinated against COVID-19, have proof of a recent recovery from the virus or who have a recent negative test.

Macron especially expressed concerns about the “urgent” situation in French overseas territories, in the Caribbean. Martinique and Guadeloupe islands have been registering about 1,200 and 1800 confirmed cases per 100,000 inhabitants, respectively — compared with 235 on average in France.

“If we need to show that vaccination is the most effective means to respond to the delta variant, unfortunately it is cruelly demonstrated,” Macron said, stressing that in both islands only about 20% of people above 12 are fully vaccinated, to compare with 66% in the mainland.

Macron said 231 health care workers and 70 emergency workers left Tuesday to bring some help to the saturated hospitals in Martinique and Guadeloupe. Both islands have been placed under a lockdown and tourists have been asked to leave.

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