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Saturday, May 18, 2024

On Covid, Omicron puts France’s Social Contract in jeopardy

The agreement was an unexpected triumph in a nation where there is widespread scepticism about the Covid-19 vaccine and where residents are willing to defy authorities. French citizens became one of Europe’s most vaccinated, government opponents were quelled on the streets, and President Emmanuel Macron’s re-election effort was strengthened by the restoration of some sense of normalcy. Even the most ardent doubters were persuaded — at least for a while — by the evidence.

He was visiting Paris from northern France and had initially resisted getting the vaccination. “I thought to myself, great, everyone’s going to get vaccinated, and in three months we should all be fine, and we’ll get our freedom back,” Marc Olissone, 60, said. “I thought to myself, great, everybody’s going to get vaccinated and, in three months, we’ll all be OK,” he added.

In France, as the Omicron version wreaks havoc, it is putting a pressure on the unwritten social compact that underpins the government’s war against the virus and eroding the assumptions that President Macron — and many other global leaders — placed their faith in to begin with. More than earlier versions, it is redefining what it means to be completely vaccinated, generating a new sense of urgency about booster doses, and raising the barriers to achieving a sense of normality that is proving transient and, increasingly, illusory for many.

That seems to be a certain way to make it more difficult for governments throughout the globe to keep their tired populace abiding by Covid restrictions. France is at risk because of President Macron’s bet on the dual powers of vaccines — which he hailed as a “trump card that changes everything,” according to the New York Times — and a health pass, which allowed people to eat and socialise indoors with relative safety for the first time since World War II began.

Even today, when France recorded 206,243 new cases in the previous 24 hours on Thursday, the second straight day with more than 200,000 new instances, the government has maintained its stance on the issue. Despite pressure from doctors and scientists, the government resisted calls on Monday to impose a curfew for New Year’s Eve or postpone the start of school next week, rejecting the stricter restrictions imposed recently by many of France’s neighbours. However, the city of Paris announced on Wednesday that masks will once again be required outdoors.

Apart from vaccinations, Mr. Chauvin said that France would likely need to place a stronger emphasis on “more civic duty,” which would include encouraging more prudence in social interactions. He said that this progress was shown by the large number of residents who were examined before to joining their family for the holidays.

According to the Elabe polling agency, approval of the government’s handling of the problem started to rise in March last year as vaccination rates began to rise. It reached a pinnacle in August, reaching 50 percent, after the introduction of the health pass, but has since begun to drop.

Professor Frédéric Worms of the Sorbonne University in France, who has researched how the pandemic is causing people to become increasingly fatigued, said that the imposition of vaccinations for children between 5 and 11 years old has heightened debate about the importance of the self in relation to the greater good.

An Elabe survey found that more over two-thirds of parents of eligible children are opposed to vaccinating their children, but 51 percent of the broader public is in favour of the practise. It has been shown in the United States and other countries where large numbers of children in this age range have previously been vaccinated that adverse effects are quite uncommon. However, many parents are hesitant to expose their children to the new vaccinations since the very young are seldom sickened by the virus, which is why many parents are wary of exposing their children to it.

Just a year ago, as France prepared to launch its immunisation programme, an Ipsos survey of individuals in 15 nations indicated that France had the lowest level of confidence in the Covid-19 vaccine. Only 40% of French people stated they would be vaccinated, compared to 77 percent of Britons and 69 percent of Americans who said they would receive the vaccine.

In spite of this, the administration moved forward with a campaign whose complete plan would be revealed over the next several months. Members of the president’s scientific advisory team, including Mr. Chauvin, offered hints in an article published in The Lancet in April, according to the president.

To preserve that equilibrium in the face of Omicron in this day and age, with less than four months before presidential elections, the government is putting its faith in itself. It requested that the French get their booster doses sooner than originally intended. Furthermore, it is attempting to tighten the qualifying requirements for the health pass by no longer letting individuals to receive it if they have negative tests, but only if they can provide evidence of vaccination.

When the revised conditions of the agreement were revealed, Prime Minister Jean Castex made no promises about a return to normalcy in society. He described the situation as “like a never-ending movie,” according to Mr. Castex.

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