Over 900,000 in France rush for COVID vaccine as tougher measures near

STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP

More than 900,000 people in France rushed to set up appointments to get vaccinated on Monday night after the president warned that people would see curbs imposed on them if they did not have a health pass that covered a vaccine or negative COVID test.

Unveiling sweeping measures to combat a surge in infections, Emmanuel Macron said vaccination would not be compulsory for the general public for now but stressed that restrictions would focus on those who are not vaccinated.

The president said health workers had to get vaccinated by September 15 or face consequences.

Stanislas Niox-Chateau, who heads Doctolib, one of the country's biggest online websites used to book vaccine appointments, told RMC radio there were record numbers seeking vaccines after the president's announcement.

"There were 7.5 million connections on Doctolib in a few minutes. More than 900,000 French people made their vaccination appointment yesterday, which is twice the last record which dated from May 11," Niox-Chateau said.

Macron said on Monday that a health pass required to attend large-scale events would now be used much more widely, including to enter restaurants, cinemas and theatres.

It will also be required to board long-distance trains and planes from the beginning of August, giving a further incentive for people to get the shot as the summer holiday season kicks in.

A slowdown in vaccination rates and a sharp upturn in new infections due to the highly contagious, now dominant, Delta variant, have forced the government to rethink its strategy.

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