France will not return to “normal” until autumn 2021, a scientific adviser to the country’s government has said.
Speaking to French television station BFM, immunologist and government adviser Jean-Francois Delfraissy said: “Vaccines are a major source of hope but if you look at the vaccination capabilities that we will have in France and elsewhere in Europe, we will need time.
“The production of vaccines will be slower than envisioned 15 days or three weeks ago. We will not face a vaccine shortfall but we will have something that is more spread out over time.”
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Mr Delfraissy’s assessment is another stark reminder of the way to go before society recovers from the pandemic, having also seemingly been reaffirmed in the UK on Thursday by Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s latest extension of the furlough scheme – this time until April.
Unlike the UK, people in France and the rest of Europe are yet to start getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
Countries on the continent could start getting the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in the last week of December, should the European Medicines Agency approve it.
In the UK, vaccinations are already rolling out – but the country still has a long way to go before returning to pre-virus times and frustration is growing in areas currently living under the toughest restrictions.
Mr Sunak’s announcement that the furlough scheme will be extended by another month to the end of April shows more disruption could be on the horizon.
The chancellor also extended the business loan scheme from the end of January to the end of March.
And while hopes of opening up have been raised by the approval of vaccines for use in the UK, there was a bleak warning from the National Audit Office about how many people will get the jab next year.
The NAO estimates that less than half of the UK will be inoculated in 2021, with most of the population having to wait until 2022.
It comes as other parts of Europe return to lockdowns, with Germany already closing up and Austria announcing similar new measures to take force after Christmas.
And the Swedish king declared that his country’s handling of the virus had “failed”.
France has recorded more coronavirus cases than any other European country with more than 2.4million, according to figures being tracked by Johns Hopkins University.
Among the confirmed infections is President Emmanuel Macron, who tested positive on Thursday.
The number of people who have died with the virus in France stands at 59,733.
Mr Macron has imposed an 8pm-6am curfew until mid-January, apart from Christmas Eve, and museums, theatres and cinemas will be closed until at least next month, as will restaurants, bars and cafes.
A maximum of six adults and any number of children are allowed in homes.
French ski resorts will remain closed and be allowed to reopen in January “under favourable conditions”.
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