Prime Minister Jean Castex has warned that tighter coronavirus restrictions will follow in 20 departments if there is a further deterioration in the health situation.

In the meantime the 20 departments will be subject to “reinforced surveillance,” with a decision to be taken next week about a weekend lockdown starting on March 5.

Most of the departments are centred on Paris, but include the Var, the Rhone and Bouches du Rhone, and the Alpes-Maritimes, which is already subject to weekend lockdowns.

The so-called English variant of the coronavirus is now responsible for about half of new infections in France.

In the meantime, Alain Fischer, the immunologist coordinating France’s vaccination program, told a press conference that the AstraZeneca vaccine is both safe and efficient. His comments were intended to increase public confidence in the vaccine developed by Oxford University which President Macron had said was not suitable for those over 65.

FILE PHOTO: Prime Minister Jean Castex at a previous press conference Reuters