Macron to address nation amid fears of Delta variant surge in France
French President Emmanuel Macron (Ludovic Marin, AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron is due to address the country on Monday evening to present new measures against the Delta variant of Covid-19, whose rapid progression is hampering France's emergence from restrictions. Vaccination may be made compulsory for health professionals and health pass requirements look set to be extended.

Faced with a resurgence of Covid-19 infections, Macron is expected to announce new measures on Monday to try to prevent a fourth wave from sweeping through French hospitals by the end of July.

The head of state will deliver a live televised address at 8 pm. The main objective of his speech is to define the course for the last 10 months of his five-year presidential term, in particular on reforms such as pensions, and he is also expected to talk about "the good health of the French economy and the importance of recovery".

But Macron will also outline new measures decided at the Élysée Palace during an exceptional virus security meeting Monday morning. He "will talk about the health situation and its evolution" and "the importance of vaccination", according to his staff.

The scientific council is pushing to make vaccination mandatory for certain professions, including health professionals, and extending the use of the coronavirus health pass.

According to the Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, if making vaccinations compulsory "was just an option" until now, "today, it is a very probable and legitimate possibility," he said on Sunday in the television and radio program Grand Rendez-Vous.

The government is working on a draft law containing the new measures, which could be adopted and implemented before the end of July.

Tense summer ahead

Macron's televised address should be similar to the four previous ones since the Covid-19 crisis began a year and a half ago. It comes two and a half months after his last announcement, when he delivered a timetable for the end of lockdown.

"I'm not sure the summer is going to be ruined. But you don't have to be a great clairvoyant to see that things will get tense in August," said a government source, speaking to AFP.

Pressure on French hospitals remains reasonably low compared to previous virus spikes, with 947 people in intensive care in France on Sunday. But the tide has turned for new cases and there is now a marked increase in confirmed positive contaminations, with 4,256 new cases recorded on Sunday compared with 2,549 on the previous Sunday.

They could soar back to daily levels of "more than 20,000 by the beginning of August if we don't act now," warned Health Minister Olivier Véran on Sunday on Radio J.

However, the situation is markedly different compared to the beginning of the year because we have a vaccine, which protects against 95 percent of serious forms of the Delta variant, Beaune said.

To facilitate the vaccination of civil servants, Amélie de Montchalin, the minister for transformation and public services, will ask France's prefects on Monday to open pop-up vaccination centres in front of prefectures and departmental and regional offices.

Health pass for restaurants?

Romain Colas, vice-president of the association of small towns in France, wants to set an example in his town of Boussy-Saint-Antoine, in the Essonne department south of Paris. He is launching a poster campaign on Monday with slogans such as "I'm vaccinated, what about you?"

Other measures could also be taken to control travel to countries where the situation is rapidly deteriorating, such as Spain or Portugal, and to lower the thresholds requiring a health pass for attending events, as recommended by the scientific council.

The council also suggests restrictions in the most seriously affected French territories in July and August and focusing on holiday areas. It also mentions the possibility of using the vaccination pass for access to restaurants, cultural activities or sports.

"We will probably need to bring back a certain number of measures that were lifted on June 30 to hopefully have enough time to better deploy the vaccination," said epidemiologist Dominique Costagliola, speaking on Europe 1 radio on Saturday.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)