PARIS – French biologists and pharmacists carried out a record number of COVID-19 tests in the week following the extension of the country’s “health pass” to restaurants, trains and other activities.
A health pass and QR code are provided for those who are vaccinated or who have recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months but also apply to people who have tested negative in the past 48 hours (for a rapid test) or 72 hours (for a PCR test).
The effort, widely seen as a way to encourage people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, has put a strain on those who perform the millions of tests.
“We are really at the top of our abilities and it will be very complicated to go beyond,” Henry-Pierre Doermann, vice-president of the labs union, told AFP.
According to Public Health France, more than 5.6 million coronavirus tests – PCR and rapid – were performed in week 32, between August 9 and August 15.
This is a significant increase from the previous week, when 4.15 million tests were performed.
Union leaders said this was in large part because pharmacies have carried out more tests in recent weeks instead of labs. At least 12,000 pharmacies are currently able to test people out of a total of 21,000.
French citizens had rushed to get vaccinated against the coronavirus after President Emmanuel Macron announced the extension of the health package in mid-July, with more than a million appointments booked within 16 hours of followed his speech.
However, vaccine uptake has declined slightly, dropping by thousands a day over the past week. The number of people receiving their first dose has dropped dramatically, from 2.6 million at the end of July to 1.1 million last week.
The government aims to vaccinate 50 million people with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of August.
Currently, at least 47 million people have received a first dose (about 70% of the population), and 40 million people have received a full cycle of immunization (about 60.7% of the population), according to the Ministry of Health. Health.
There are 58 million people in France who are eligible for vaccination. The least vaccinated segment of the adult population is the 30-39 age group, where 73.5% of people are vaccinated, according to Doctolib.
The government will also soon focus its campaign on 12-17 year olds, of whom only 55% are vaccinated.
Meanwhile, thousands of people once again demonstrated in the streets of France on Saturday against the government’s COVID-19 vaccination policies amid concerns from rights groups over anti-Semitic sentiment in the protest movement.
Saturday’s protests were called for the sixth weekend in a row to denounce the new “health pass” system announced by Macron which they see as unfairly restricting the rights of the unvaccinated.
The Interior Ministry estimated the number of people present at around 175,000 to 220 demonstrations across the country, including 14,700 in Paris. As part of the system gradually implemented since mid-July, anyone wishing to enter a restaurant, a theater, a cinema, a long-distance train or a large shopping center must present proof of vaccination or a negative test.
About 200 different demonstrations were called across the country, with around 9,500 people counted in the south of Montpellier, 4,000 in the east of Strasbourg and 3,400 in Bordeaux, according to local authorities.
At the head of the Parisian march in the early afternoon, a few hundred people waved flags and banners with the word “Liberty” shouting “Macron!” We don’t want your pass!
The protest movement brought together conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers, former members of the anti-government “Yellow Vests” movement, as well as those concerned that the system is unfairly creating a two-tier society.
Far-right leader Florian Philippot, who accused Macron of turning France into a dictatorship and likening the health pass to apartheid, was at the Paris rally on Saturday.
The anti-pass-health movement was marked from the start by slogans and symbols that were denounced by Jewish groups and anti-racist activists.
“What I find striking is how much it (anti-Semitism) is recurrent and openly displayed,” SOS Racisme boss Dominique Sopo told AFP.
“During the yellow vests movement, it was something that was expressed on the sidelines … now the people carrying these signs are no longer hiding and the other protesters are not reacting.”
Left-wing newspaper Le Monde condemned the rise in anti-Semitic behavior in an editorial this week, calling it “poison to society, a danger to all of us.”
“Although anti-Semitism on the far right is old, it seems to be encouraged at the moment by the rise of conspiracy thinking,” he added. – Euronews / Agencies