PARIS (Reuters) -The highly contagious Delta variant now represents around 40% of new COVID-19 infections in France and could ruin the summer if a fourth wave of infections is allowed to build, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday.
Attal said forging ahead with vaccinations was the best way to avoid a return to tough curbs on movement and socialising. He urged any hesitant citizens to get the shot.
The share of this variant has doubled each week over the past three weeks, from 10% of infections three weeks ago to 20% last week and 40% this week, he said.
“This variant is dangerous and quick and wherever it is present, it can ruin the summer,” Attal told a news conference.
Attal said infection rates were surging higher in 11 metropolitan regions, and the situation was deteriorating rapidly in the Ile-de-France region around Paris, with infection rates in the capital nearly doubling over the past week.
“We are getting more and more warning signals and we could see the same trajectory as in some neighbouring countries,” he said.
Cases in Britain are soaring, while in Spain and Portugal the accelerating infection rate has already forced authorities to impose new restrictions.
Senior ministers will meet on Monday to discuss the threat of a fourth wave and Attal said the government was considering all possible scenarios, include possible compulsory vaccination for health workers.
“I do not want to stigmatise any profession. Vaccination is not a penalty but a chance. I want to have a debate devoid of passion about it,” said Health Minister Olivier Veran at the start of a meeting with health workers’ representatives on Wednesday evening.
In a joint statement after the meeting at least eight health workers’ federations backed the idea of compulsory vaccination for health workers and a vote on legislation to that effect if necessary.
From a seven-day average of more than 42,000 new infections per day mid-April, the infection rate had plunged to just over 1,800 at the end of June. But since then the trend has reversed. The number of daily new cases is back above 2,500 again, and increasing at double-digit percentage rates every week.
(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Geert De ClercqAditional reporting by Dominique VidalonEditing by Richard Lough, Peter Graff and Giles Elgood)