France's Macron: mandatory COVID-19 jab is an option

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a joint news conference with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger, and Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis after a meeting of the Visegrad Group in Budapest, Hungary, December 13, 2021. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

PARIS, Dec 15 (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday it was possible the COVID-19 vaccine would eventually be made compulsory in France, but said it was not the priority for now.

Like its European neighbours and countries across the globe, France is scrambling to find ways to contain a fresh surge in the pandemic. France's seven-day average of new infections is at its highest since November 2020. read more

Asked in an interview with TF1 and LCI television stations if COVID-19 vaccination could become mandatory in France, Macron said: "This hypothesis exists."

But he quickly added that France was "almost there," in practice. With nearly 90% of eligible people in France already vaccinated, France was not far from the level of take-up that would be achieved by making the jab mandatory, he said.

First and foremost, he encouraged those who have not had a jab yet to get it done.

"There are a little more than 5 million of our fellow citizens who are not vaccinated and therefore really, I call on them to take responsibility because they are not protected and we see many cases today in hospital ... who have not been vaccinated."

"Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate: this is the first pillar," he said in the interview, which was recorded on Sunday and broadcast on Wednesday.

For children aged 5 to 11, vaccinations were desirable but "it will be up to the parents," he said.

Macron declined to rule out imposing new restrictions over Christmas, saying "one always needs to be cautious on such issues." He also said he expected hospitals to be under a lot of pressure over the holidays, because of the high number of COVID-19 cases.

France is considering introducing mandatory PCR tests for all travellers entering the country from Britain, where infections linked to the Omicron variant are surging, a French government source said earlier on Wednesday. read more

Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau and Tassilo Hummel; Writing by Ingrid Melander; editing by Christian Lowe

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