Hundreds of thousands of people in France rushed to set up appointments to get vaccinated against the coronavirus after the president warned that the unvaccinated would face restrictions aimed at curbing the quick spread of the Delta variant.
Unveiling sweeping measures to combat a surge in infections, Emmanuel Macron said on Monday night that vaccination would not be compulsory for the general public for now but stressed that restrictions would focus on those who are not vaccinated.
The president said health workers had to get vaccinated by Sept. 15 or face consequences.
Stanislas Niox-Chateau, who heads Doctolib, one of the country's biggest online websites used to book vaccine appointments, told RMC radio there were record numbers seeking vaccines after the president's announcement.
"Almost a million vaccine appointments have been booked, which means thousands of lives have been saved", Health Minister Olivier Veran said on BFM TV.
Macron said on Monday that a health pass required to attend large-scale events would now be used much more widely, including to enter restaurants, cinemas and theatres.
It will also be required to board long-distance trains and planes from the beginning of August, giving a further incentive for people to get the shot as the summer holiday season kicks in.
A slowdown in vaccination rates and a sharp upturn in new infections due to the highly contagious, now dominant, Delta variant, have forced the government to rethink its strategy.
"September 15 is too late, the virus is doubling every five days. We are talking about low figures which quickly become high. What we want is to avoid an epidemic wave and (get) protection for everyone. We're not taking this decision lightly."
After falling from more than 42,000 per day in mid-April to less than 2,000 per day in late June, the average number of new infections per day in France has crept back up again, standing now at nearly 4,000 per day.
Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire warned on Franceinfo radio that the only obstacle to France achieving 6% economic growth in 2021 would be an uptick in COVID-19 due to the Delta variant.