Olympics 2024 under threat as France struggles to reopen amid new pandemic wave

France 'needs to boost tourism by 2024' says expert

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France’s plans to host the 2024 Olympic games successfully have been dented as the country struggles to emerge from months of strict lockdown. President Emmanuel Macron is expected to make a public address on Wednesday evening amid mounting pressure to take action against an imminent third wave of coronavirus. Meanwhile, tourism expert Vanguelis Panayotis has warned the French leader he needs to urgent boost the country’s economy and tourist ahead of the games. 

Tourism experts Mr Panayotis told France 24: “It’s of utmost importance that we reboot tourism in the region.

“Especially with the Olympic Games coming in 2024.

“But also because it’s the engine that drives tourism in France”

The warning comes as President Macron hopes of avoiding a third large-scale lockdown since the start of the year diminish.

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He had opened to guide France out of the pandemic while allowing the economy to reopen open and begin on the long road to recovery. 

However, in recent weeks the Kent variant, first detected in Britain, has swept across France and much of Europe leading to a spike in new cases.

The number of patients in intensive care breached 5,000 on Tuesday, the highest number this year and exceeding the peak hit during a six-week-long lockdown in the autumn.

Meanwhile across France, thousands of schools have had to end classes and send pupils home.

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Ahead of President Macron’s speech later tonight a French government source told Reuters three scenarios were being examined.

The first being a massive operation to transfer intensive care patients from overloaded hospitals to lesser-hit regions, followed by school closures and lastly a strict lockdown in the hardest-hit parts of France.

Adding to the growing crisis, scientists have also discovered a new coronavirus variant in Paris, sparking fears it could be resistant to vaccines.

Experts at the Henri Mondor hospital have said the variant had 18 new mutations, including two which can spread faster and fight vaccines more successfully than the original COVID-19.

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Virologist Dr Jean-Michel Pawlotsky told France Inter: “We have identified two mutations which are interesting: the 501Y mutation, which seems linked to in increased transmissibility of the virus.

“And another mutation in position 452, which has been suggested to potentially decrease sensitivity to the effect of vaccination.”

So far, there appear to be few cases of this variant, dubbed the Henri Mondor variant, but it is said to be spreading quickly.

Dr Pawlotsky told French media outlet LCI: “The appearance of a cluster in a neighbouring hospital to our hospital showed us that these four people have been infected by a new virus.”

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