There is a growing and glum sense in France that its efforts to quell the pandemic have stalled. The country is caught between a slow-moving vaccine rollout and infection rates that remain high despite months of restrictions.
Last month, the country was bracing for a third nationwide lockdown when President Emmanuel Macron unexpectedly decided against it. He made a calculated gamble that he could tighten restrictions just enough to stave off a new surge of cases while avoiding the heavier economic and social toll of more drastic measures like those in force in Britain and Germany.
Weeks later, it is still unclear whether that bet will pay off or whether, as some health experts have warned, there is little chance of containing the spread without a strict lockdown.
The average number of daily infections, at about 20,000, has neither spiked nor fallen much over the past month. Hospitalizations are stable but still at high levels. And more contagious variants from other parts of the world are spreading.
More than 2.2 million out of France’s population of 67 million have received at least one vaccine dose, and nearly 250,000 have been fully inoculated. But with 3.1 doses administered per 100 people, according to a New York Times database, France still trails neighbors like Italy and Spain.
Arnaud Fontanet, an epidemiologist at the Institut Pasteur who is a member of the government’s Covid-19 advisory council, said last weekend that the chances of containing the epidemic without a tight lockdown were thin.
“Everything will depend on our ability to control the spread of the British variant,” Mr. Fontanet told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.
“There is a lot of wavering,” said Odile Essombé-Missé, 79, who was standing in line at a vaccination center in Pontoise for her 85-year-old husband’s injection. Asked about a new lockdown, she shrugged.
“We put up with it,” she said. Her eyeglasses, perched atop a colorful blue and orange face mask, were fogged over.
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