Macron: French Covid-19 vaccinations will catch up with Britain 'in a few weeks'

EU threatens to ban drug makers in bloc from exporting vaccines to UK

French President Emmanuel Macron gestures as he delivers a press conference after a European Union (EU) summit held over video conference, at The Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris, on March 25, 2021.  A looming third wave of coronavirus and Europe's struggles to mount a vaccination drive is to dominate the EU video summit, despite a welcome guest appearance by US President. / AFP / POOL / BENOIT TESSIER
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France will have caught up with Britain on the number of people vaccinated against Covid-19 “in a few weeks”, President Emmanuel Macron said.

France’s inoculation drive has been criticised for being too slow, with 11.45 per cent of French people having received at least one inoculation, compared with 43.79 per cent of Britons.

But France has significantly increased the pace of vaccinations, Mr Macron told Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper. He said Britain's campaign could face challenges.

“In a few weeks we will have completely caught up with the British, who will meanwhile be increasingly dependent on us to vaccinate their population,” Mr Macron said.

He was referring to vaccines from the Anglo-Swedish company AstraZeneca that are produced in EU member states.

The EU has threatened to ban pharmaceutical companies from exporting coronavirus vaccines to Britain and other well-supplied countries until they made good on their promised deliveries to the bloc.

It was a threat directed mainly at British-based AstraZeneca.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Friday said Britain, which had given priority to delivering first doses to as many people as possible, would struggle to obtain the second doses it needed for full protection.

“The United Kingdom has taken great pride in vaccinating well with the first dose except they have a problem with the second dose,” Mr Le Drian told France Info radio.

Doctors at Paris hospitals swamped by Covid-19 cases said they would soon have to start choosing which lives to save.

On Saturday, France recorded another 42,619 infections, several times the target of 5,000 daily cases Mr Macron set in late 2020.

A week ago, a third of the French population were placed under a loose form of lockdown.

In an open letter published by Le Journal du Dimanche, 41 medics complained that the government's measures against the third wave of infections were "insufficient".

They said hospitals would be full within two weeks.

“We will be forced to sort patients to try and save as many lives as possible,” they said.

They said they had “never experienced a situation like this, not even during the worst [terrorist] attacks of the past few years”.

Meanwhile, more schools are temporarily closing classrooms after infections among staff and pupils.

Unlike many of its European neighbours, France has kept schools open since last summer.

Pressed on whether he was planning to tighten restrictions, Mr Macron said: “Nothing has been decided.”