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France to carry out border checks to stop skiing abroad: PM

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-12-03 09:21
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Snow cannons produce artificial snow next to a ski lift on a closed slope, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Spital am Semmering, Austria December 2, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

PARIS -- France will carry out checks at its borders with Switzerland and Spain to deter its citizens from traveling during the Christmas holidays to ski resorts abroad, which are widely believed to be coronavirus hotspots, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Wednesday.

"The goal is to avoid French citizens getting contaminated. That will be done by performing random checks at the borders," Castex told the BFMTV news channel.

"The authorities will be able to order a seven-day quarantine," he added.

In France, as well in Germany and Italy, ski resorts can open during the Christmas and New Year holidays, but ski lifts will have to remain closed. However, some France's neighbors, Spain and Switzerland, have allowed their resorts to open.

As the European countries' policies remain different, Castex noted that "diplomatic action continues" to coordinate on the opening of winter sports resorts in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.

The French prime minister argued that maintaining restrictions on ski resorts helped prevent the resurgence of the coronavirus.

"This Christmas vacation period poses a risk. We must limit the risks and winter sports are an opportunity to increase circulation (of the virus)," he said. The aim is to avoid a third wave in January, Castex added.

The prime minister said that the circulation of the coronavirus had slowed down in France, where the pandemic situation "is the least worrying" in Europe thanks to "the efforts of the French and to the difficult but necessary decisions that we have taken."

On Tuesday, the number of new COVID-19 infections registered in France stayed below 10,000 for the third day in a row. Hospitalization and intensive care unit admission rates also continued to fall.

Asked when the vaccination campaign would start in France, Castex said the government was waiting for the European regulators' approval which could be obtained in late December.

"We will never take the risk of having people vaccinated without having authorization from the competent authorities," he said.

France has already ordered 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, the prime minister said, noting that "it's necessary that as many French people as possible agree to be vaccinated."

Early this week, France's National Health Authority recommended a vaccination campaign in five stages and on a volunteer basis which should target residents and staff of nursing homes first.

In the second stage, people aged 65 and over and caregivers should get the vaccine. The three other stages would be progressive and target people with comorbidity and exposed professionals.

Up to 90 percent of the country's 67 million population should be vaccinated to enable a return to normal life by next autumn, according to Arnaud Fontanet, a scientific adviser to the government.

A recent Elabe survey has found that 48 percent of the 1,003 respondents said they would refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine if one were available, and six out of 10 French people opposed the idea of making vaccination mandatory.

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