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Peak of France’s 3rd Covid-19 wave ‘behind’ it, PM Castex says, blames UK variant for extent of infections

France is through the worst part of its third wave of Covid-19 infections, Prime Minister Jean Castex has said, as the country prepares for the easing of health measures designed to curb the spread of the virus.

“The health situation is improving in our country … the peak of the third wave seems to be behind us,” Castex told a news briefing on Thursday.

He also urged the public to remain vigilant amid the threat of the UK variant of the virus, which he said is “more contagious and more difficult to fight.”

Almost 6,000 Covid-19 patients remain in intensive care across France, Castex said, although the total number of admissions has reached a “plateau” in recent days.

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The last week has seen a 27% drop in the number of patients admitted to hospital across 80 of France’s departments, or regions.

The positive data comes as the country prepares to ease its third lockdown, with nurseries and elementary schools set to resume face-to-face lessons on Monday. Middle and high school-age children will go back to the classroom on May 3.

From May 3, some travel restrictions will also be lifted, though the 7pm-6am curfew is to remain in place until further notice.

Castex also said that from mid-May, non-essential retail, cultural and sporting activities, and outdoor hospitality could also be allowed to resume, with further announcements on the lifting of restrictions due in the coming days.

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The PM was joined at the press conference by Health Minister Olivier Veran, who urged the French public to come forward to receive AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, despite recent concerns the jab may be linked to rare blood clots.

Veran said the risk of blood clots on a transatlantic flight is “50 times higher” than that associated with the Anglo-Swedish jab.

Earlier this month, a review by the EU’s drug regulator the European Medicines Agency found that unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as “very rare side effects” of the vaccine.

More than 13 million people have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in France, according to the latest government data.

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