French minister rules out new strict lockdown as Delta Covid-19 variant spreads

France could reintroduce limits on the number of people allowed in bars, restaurants in other venues. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (BLOOMBERG) - France must "live with the virus" rather than count on a new lockdown to contain the spread of a new variant of Covid-19, a key ally of President Emmanuel Macron said ahead of a presidential address.

The country could reintroduce limits on the number of people allowed in bars, restaurants in other venues and extend the use of a so-called "health pass", Junior Minister for European affairs Clement Beaune said on Europe 1 radio on Sunday (July 11).

"We must live with the virus, and this means we don't close everything again and positions aren't as hard as they used to be, because we have the vaccine," Mr Beaune said.

In his speech on Monday evening (July 12), Mr Macron is expected to ring the alarm about the rapid spread of the more contagious Delta variant in France.

He's also expected to outline his priorities for the rest of his mandate, including whether he'll go ahead with his controversial pension reform proposal before his term ends in May 2022.

Delaying an overhaul of pensions by six months "wouldn't be such a big deal", Mr Beaune said.

"When and where - this is the President's decision and it will depend on the health situation."

Mr Beaune called the recent setback of Mr Macron's party in regional elections last month a "big defeat", but said it was "not a referendum on the pension reform".

As more people are vaccinated, from September some Covid tests may not be reimbursed, and more activities may be conditioned on having a pass that proves a person has tested negative or been immunised, he said.

Mr Beaune also warned that the situation was "worrying" in Spain and Portugal given the spread of the new variant, and urged Malta to rescind its decision to close its borders to travellers who aren't fully vaccinated.

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