PARIS, France: The French government will not require residents of the Paris region to be locked down this weekend.
However, those living in the northerly Pas-de-Calais area, along with residents of the French Riviera, will be locked down.
French President Emmanuel Macron has also pledged to speed up the issuing of vaccinations in two dozen high-risk zones, as officials seek to ease the burden on hospitals, as well as decrease the restrictions the public must endure.
Further, Macron said he is determined to keep the economy open, even as he watches France's COVID-19 infection rate rise.
Also, a nationwide curfew, begun in December, will continue to be enforced.
"This decision not to lockdown (other areas) has a flip-side. For the government, it is to accelerate testing and the vaccine deployment from this weekend," Prime Minister Jean Castex said during a news conference.
France's vaccination program has targeted the most vulnerable groups, but inoculating members of this group has been slow.
Also, France will open additional vaccine centers in 23 high-risk regions. Additionally, pharmacists will begin administering vaccinations and the government expects vaccination supplies will increase, Castex said.
The good news, Castex noted, was indications that the vaccine was already having an impact, as infections among those over 80 years-old are falling.
While Britain and Germany have imposed stringent national lockdowns to fight the virus, France has chosen a different route, only enforcing a nightly curfew and the closure of bars, restaurants and entertainment locations.
Plans in France call for 10 million people to receive their first-round shots by the end of April and 30 million Frenchman, representing two-third of all adults, by summer.
"We can reasonably think that by the end of April or beginning of May that it might be possible to lift some restrictions, though we have no crystal ball," Health Minister Oliver Veran said.
Castex urged health workers who were objecting to the vaccine to get inoculated, as fewer than half of nursing home workers and only one-third of medical staff who have been offered the shot have been vaccinated.
"That's not how it should be and it compromises our ability to fight the virus," Castex said.