The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and the Omicron variant

French Prime Minister Jean Castex (left) and Jean-Jacques Bourdin during an interview on RMC/BFMTV channel in Paris, France January 6, 2022.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex (left) and Jean-Jacques Bourdin during an interview on RMC/BFMTV in Paris, France on January 6, 2022. (Raphael Lafargue/Abaca/Sipa/AP)

French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Thursday that the country’s adoption of the proposed vaccine would be “much more effective” than mandatory vaccination, in an interview with CNN affiliate BFMTV.

“The government has had a hard time checking passports,” he said. Castex added: “We will have more of them in testing for mandatory vaccines.

Distinguishing between the two, Castex said compulsory vaccination could be considered a “fine” but “the goal of the country is to get people vaccinated, not to fill the state coffers”.

The prime minister said countries like Italy that are making vaccinations mandatory have “very, very low” vaccination levels compared to France.

The target is people who are vaccinated as much as possible. Mandatory vaccination is a means, a tool, a tool of last resort,” said Castex.

Castex cites some people in low-income neighborhoods who may choose to avoid medical care in general and who are not ideologically opposed to vaccination.

“Firing people like that will not help us achieve [vaccination] target,” he said.

Some context: His comments came after lawmakers in the French lower house of parliament approve a bill earlier on Thursday aims to make it mandatory for everyone to present proof of vaccination to access multiple public places and inter-regional public transport. The bill, once passed by the Senate, would instead remove the option that could show negative test results.

An intense debate in France has raged about how to deal with the unvaccinated minority. The country has vaccinated about 74% of its total population, one of the higher rates in the European Union. But it has been hit hard by the more transmissible variant of Omicron, and has reported record infections in recent days.

Report of the French health authorities 332,252 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, representing a new record since the start of the pandemic for the second day running.

According to the Ministry of Health, infections have been increasing for several weeks with an average of 200,000 cases per day. While hospital admissions have hit their highest rates since May, they haven’t been growing as rapidly as infections so far.

But the majority of intensive care unit (ICU) patients are unvaccinated, according to the French government. Health Minister Olivier Veran said for every person vaccinated in the ICU, 20 were unvaccinated.


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