Rush for COVID vaccines as France may ask for proof of immunization

Women walk past a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination center installated in front of Paris town hall, France, July 7, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

PARIS, July 13 (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of people in France rushed to set up appointments to get vaccinated against the coronavirus after the president warned that the unvaccinated would face restrictions aimed at curbing the quick spread of the Delta variant.

Unveiling sweeping measures to combat a surge in infections, President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday night that vaccination would not be compulsory for the 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 Sept. 15 or face unspecified consequences, a proclamation that outraged some employees. read more

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.

In nearly 24 hours, some 1.7 million vaccine appointments had been booked through Doctolib, the website said.

Meanwhile daily vaccinations hit a new high on Tuesday.

"Today you are 792,339 to have received a first jab, a new record. This drive must amplify and continue in coming weeks," Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Twitter.

For most of June and July, the country averaged roughly 570,000 shots a day, according to Our World in Data.

France has given nearly 53% of its population at least one dose of the vaccine and 37% are fully vaccinated. (Graphic on global vaccinations)

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.

French retailers were puzzled over how the government expected them to block people not vaccinated against COVID-19 from shopping malls and other public places. read more

A slowdown in vaccination rates and a sharp upturn in new infections due to the highly contagious, now dominant, Delta variant, have forced several countries to rethink their strategies. read more

In France, new infections peaked at more than 42,000 per day in mid-April before falling to 2,000 per day in late June. Now the country is recording on average 4,000 new cases a day, with the rate of new infections doubling every five days. (Graphic on cases)

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire warned on Franceinfo radio that the only obstacle to France achieving 6% economic growth in 2021 would be an uptick in COVID-19 due to the Delta variant. read more

Reporting by John Irish, Jean-Stephane Brosse and Benoit van Overstraeten; additional reporting Dominique Vidalon and Nicolas Delame; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Lisa Shumaker

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