France targets AstraZeneca for ‘unacceptable’ failure to honor contracts with EU, as Covid-19 cases explode across the country

As France faces a deepening Covid-19 crisis with soaring cases and more regions facing possible shutdowns, Paris has angrily singled out AstraZeneca, saying it is failing to meet its vaccine delivery commitments.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said AstraZeneca has not honored the commitments it made to supply EU nations with its Covid-19 vaccine.

“The situation is completely unacceptable,” he said.

French hospitals are under severe pressure with around 27,000 coronavirus patients, and the number of those in intensive care with the disease rose to 4,634 on Tuesday, a four-month high.“

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“The situation is worsening everywhere,” Attal told reporters, adding that more people would be told to work from home and the government would step up checks and sanctions on companies not doing enough to allow for home working.

AstraZeneca denies it is failing to honor its contract with the EU. The company says its contract commits it to making the “best reasonable efforts” – which it says it is doing even as it faces production challenges.

France imposed a month-long lockdown on Paris and parts of the north last week after cases increased from the spread of highly contagious variants. Non-essential stores are closed and there are limits on how far people can move.

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Attal said the government was considering adding the Rhone, Aube and Nievre regions to its list of Covid-19 high-risk zones which need careful monitoring and may need restrictive measures.

As part of its national vaccination program, France is to offer jabs to anyone over 70 years of age beginning Saturday, and French President Emmanuel Macron plans to turn sports arenas into mass vaccination hubs.

By Monday, some 6.3 million had received at least one dose of a vaccine– about 9.5% of its adult population. France has reported over 4.3 million cases of coronavirus over the past year and recorded nearly 93,000 Covid-related deaths.

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