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France’s Macron pledges support for students amid new lockdown calls

French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday promised greater support to students in reaction to protests against university closures, while scientists called for the imposition of another lockdown.

Paris, 22 January 2021 (dpa/MIA) — French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday promised greater support to students in reaction to protests against university closures, while scientists called for the imposition of another lockdown.

Speaking at the Paris-Saclay university, Macron said students would be able to purchase two meals a day for the price of one and could return to in-person lectures once a week if they wished to. He also promised better access to mental health services.

On Wednesday, students across the country demonstrated for in-person teaching to resume at universities and decried psychological and financial effects of the pandemic.

Macron however dampened students’ hope of a rapid return to normality. “We will have a second semester with the virus and many restrictions,” he said.

Meanwhile, scientists called for the imposition of another lockdown to curb infections.

Renaud Piarroux of the Pierre Louis Institute in Paris called for an “earlier, more effective, shorter” lockdown in an interview with broadcaster Franceinfo.

He said France was not facing a stabilization or decline of infections but a renewed rise, especially given the danger of the spreading mutation first identified in Britain.

Infectious diseases expert Odile Launay also said new restrictions were necessary if numbers rose.

She proposed stricter rules especially for those at high risk while they wait for a vaccination. “This would allow for some form of economic life,” she said.

“We see what a difficult situation young people are in,” she added.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Olivier Veran said that authorities hope to be able to vaccinate the entire population by the end of August.

“We will be able to vaccinate … 70 million people, the entire French population, by the end of August … if all the vaccines ordered are approved by European and global health authorities,” Veran told broadcaster TF1 in an interview on Thursday evening.

Veran said 1.3 to 1.4 million people will “probably” be vaccinated by the end of January, noting that by the end of February, he expected that number to rise to 4 million.

As of Thursday, more than 800,000 people had been vaccinated in France after a slow start to the inoculation program.

France’s Council of State late Thursday nixed the government’s decision to suspend the issuing of family reunification visas to spouses and children of non-European foreigners living in France because of the pandemic.

“The judge is of the opinion that this decision disproportionately violates the right to normal family life and the best interests of the child,” the Council, the country’s highest court for issues and cases involving public administration, said in a statement.

The government had decided in March of last year to restrict entry from abroad.

France has reopened shops and schools, but is trying to keep the virus in check with strict nightly curfews starting at 6 pm (1700 GMT).

The country has seen more than 71,000 deaths in connection with the pandemic.

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