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France's Macron to outline plans to curb Delta variant as new infections rise

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By Euronews
FILE: French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the Elysee Palace Thursday, April 25, 2019 in Paris.
FILE: French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the Elysee Palace Thursday, April 25, 2019 in Paris.   -   Copyright  Michel Euler/AP.
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French President Emmanuel Macron is due to address the nation in a televised speech on Monday evening as the country fears a new wave of coronavirus fuelled by the more contagious Delta variant.

The virus strain, which was first detected in India, now accounts for the majority of new infections in the country, according to health authorities.

“We are at the start of something that looks like an epidemic wave," Health Minister Olivier Véran told Radio J on Sunday.

While hospitalisations keep decreasing with 947 people in intensive care, new infections are soaring. On Sunday, France reported 4,256 new cases compared to 2,549 just a week ago.

New cases could rise "above 20,000 in early August if we don't act," Véran warned.

In this context, the head of state is expected to announce potential new restrictions just days after lifting them. Night clubs reopened throughout the country on Friday for the first time in 16 months, a final step in the return to pre-pandemic normal.

Macron was chairing a health defence council on Monday morning to discuss the new measures with key cabinet ministers.

According to Deputy Minister for European Affairs Clément Beaune, making vaccination mandatory for all health workers is a "very likely option," with a new law expected to pass by the end of the month.

The government may also require the extension of special COVID-19 passes -- limited so far to clubs, festivals or other large gatherings -- to access restaurants or other day-to-day activities.

According to French media, other possible announcements include a return to curbs on the number of people allowed in public venues, making face masks mandatory again in outdoor spaces, or new border restrictions.

Officials have also hinted that France could start charging money for coronavirus tests, which have been free for everyone, in order to incite citizens to get their jabs.

50% of France's adult population is fully vaccinated, according to health authorities, while 65% has received at least one dose.

The country's inoculation campaign has picked up pace after a slow start. While demand has ebbed since May as coronavirus indicators improved, vaccinations appointments rose again last week, Véran said.

Whatever new measures Macron announces on Monday, they are likely to be mild for now.

"We have to live with the virus,'' Beaune said on Sunday. "Living with the virus means we don't re-close everything.''

Additional sources • AP, AFP