France to end free Covid tests to boost vaccination

Paris, Aug 12 (IANS): France will stop offering free coronavirus tests by mid-October, in a move to boost vaccination and avoid drastic measures to halt the spread of more infectious variants, government spokesperson Gabriel Attal announced.

PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and antigen tests will no longer be available for free, except to patients with a medical prescription, Xinhua news agency quoted Attal as saying in a statement on Wednesday.

"Testing does not protect. Repeated tests do not prevent people from going to the hospital or getting infected.

"By mid-October, everyone will have had time to get organised and take responsibility for himself," he added.

According to government figures, France has so far administered 45 million first doses of Covid-19 vaccines, representing 67.2 per cent of its total population, while more than half of the country's population of 67 million have received both doses.

The French government aims to have administered 50 million first shots and have 35 million people fully vaccinated by the end of August.

It hopes to achieve herd immunity, where 90 per cent of eligible people would be vaccinated, by this autumn.

After a virtual defence council on the epidemic situation, President Emmanuel Macron also decided to give booster shots to the elderly and most vulnerable from September onwards.

Other measures to halt the spread of the Delta variant include the mandatory 'health pass' in shopping centres whose surface area exceeds 20,000 square metres in departments where the incidence rate is over 200 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Meanwhile, the situation in France's overseas territories is "dramatic". With intensive care beds running out in Guadeloupe, a strict lockdown has been ordered, while in Martinique, beaches and shops selling non-essential products have been shut down for three weeks and tourists asked to leave the island.



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