This Thursday February 18, 2021 at 6 p.m., French Health Minister Olivier Véran hosted a new press brief. On the occasion, the Minister addressed the health situation in France. During the brief, Véran addressed the vaccination campaign, Covid variants, as well as the coming saliva tests to be deployed in schools.
From the very beginning, Véran made it a point of honor to remind the current principles, stating “it is not the time to ease off […] Nothing would be worst that lifting restrictions at the bad time, too soon. […] Our efforts already paid off but the game has not been won yet”.
Invited by Véran, INSERM head of Research Vittoria Colizza has taken a stock on the impact of curfew on the evolution of the epidemic. she said, “these anticipated curfews have had a considerable impact on the withdrawal of the historic strain". Therefore, the arrival of variants has changed things: without the latter, they consider the spread of the "historic" strain would have reached the forecasted peaks.
As for schools, Véran reminded closing all schools was out of the question, nor was it to put the country back into lockdown. Yet, the government has decided to make tests within schools easier. Therefore, after the Winter break, saliva tests are to be deployed in schools.
Given the green light by the Haute Autorité de Santé, this testing system is less intrusive than nose swabs the French have been taking so far. During the press conference on February 18, 2021, Olivier Véran also said saliva tests will be extended to other population groups. Health workers will be the next one to be provided with saliva tests as they are very regularly tested.
Health Minister Véran also made the most of the press brief to announce self-isolation period of PCR+ cases is to be enhanced. From this moment on, the period moves from 7 to 10 days, as France seems to have reached a high plateau and the country must face with the spread of game-changing variants.
As for the UK variant strain, Véran says it may be found in 36% of coronavirus cases in the country (against 20 to 25% the week before), adding other variants are to be found in 5% of cases. "AstraZeneca vaccine is effective in most cases, even though uncertainties exist about the South African variant, but we have very little data about the matter", the Health Minister also said. He said the vaccine will also be made available in pharmacies from March.
Véran concluded: “Every week, we win over the epidemic, it is a week we have been vaccinating more, it is a week we are getting closer to better days in terms of the weather. I cannot tell you if we are winning, but we have precise means enabling us to see things and made the right measures at the right time. The coming weeks will be key. This uncertainty about variants must encourage us to remain thoroughly vigilant. We are making everything we can to prevent a new lockdown, but we must remain extremely united during this period”.
Olivier Véran’s statements as of Thursday February 18, 2021: