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French rush to book COVID vaccines before restaurants require them to eat out

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By Lauren Chadwick
People wait after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, in a vaccination centre of Lyon.
People wait after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, in a vaccination centre of Lyon.   -   Copyright  Laurent Cipriani/AP Photo
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More than one million people in France booked appointments to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in a record-breaking sixteen hours since the country's president said you would need one to eat at a restaurant.

The main website used to book vaccine appointments, Doctolib, said a record of about 1.3 million people had scheduled an appointment since Emmanuel Macron's speech on Monday evening.

Since mid-June, the daily number of appointments scheduled via the site has been under 200,000 following a surge in May when vaccination became available to more age groups.

The rush to get a dose comes after President Macron said it would be mandatory for all health professionals to receive a jab by September.

Macron also said France would extend their health pass system to cinemas and theatres by the end of July - requiring citizens to have a vaccine or a negative COVID-19 test before being allowed inside.

That system will be extended to restaurants and shopping centres in August, the French president added, contributing to the surge in people booking an appointment.

Sixty-five per cent of the people booking appointments by Tuesday morning were under the age of 35, Doctolib said.

On the website Vite Ma Dose, which helps people to find vaccine appointments quickly, traffic was "ten times higher" than normal, said the website's founder Guillaume Rozier on French TV channel BFM.

Rozier added on Twitter that there were 3.4 million searches for vaccine appointments.

France's health minister Olivier Véran said the increase in vaccine appointments meant that thousands of lives would be saved.

"Yesterday, in the space of a few hours, thousands of lives were saved, that's also the way to think about it," Véran told BFM on Tuesday morning.

"A million French people make an appointment for a first injection, with a leverage effect on the epidemic, thousands of lives have been saved in the space of a few minutes, a few hours in our country."

France has had low case rates since exiting their third lockdown in May but infections are rising again as the more transmissible Delta variant spreads.

The country's health ministry says that 53% of the total population has received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 40.6% of the population have received two doses.