PARIS -- France’s health minister says his country is readying to start administering COVID-19 vaccines in late December. But Olivier Veran is warning Thursday that people will still have to wear masks and keep their distance even after vaccines are widely available.
Veran said he can’t say yet whether mass vaccination “will allow us to get rid of this virus and totally return to our past lives,” because it’s not clear exactly how long protection from the eventual vaccines will last.
Noting broad skepticism in France about vaccine safety, he promised transparency about vaccination policy and to release plans soon on who will get the vaccine first and how.
President Emmanuel Macron has said France will not make COVID vaccines mandatory.
The government laid out details Thursday of a gradual easing of its monthlong virus lockdown and announced hundreds of millions of euros in new aid for struggling workers and students and businesses forced to close.
French authorities are also increasing efforts to counteract the mental health consequences of the second lockdown and protracted pandemic. The prime minister said a government hotline for psychological help is now receiving 20,000 calls a day.
France leads Europe in numbers of confirmed virus infections, and has reported 50,618 virus-related deaths
Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.
COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.
Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Avoid contact with sick people.
- Avoid non-essential travel.