Built for the 1998 soccer World Cup, the stadium on the northern outskirts of Paris has a capacity of more than 80,000 seats and is generally reserved for top-tier sporting events, such as international football and rugby matches or large concerts of pop.
But since early Tuesday, people have been queuing to receive an injection at the latest and largest of France’s stadiums to be converted for coronavirus vaccines, which have been dubbed “vaccinodromes.”
In March, the southern city of Marseille opened its velodrome for vaccinations, and Lyon did the same last week, making available its Groupama Stadium, which reported 10,000 vaccinations over the Easter weekend alone.
The Stade de France, in stark contrast to the colorful events that usually take place there, is in the poorest part of the country. The department of Saine-Saint-Denis has been severely affected by Covid, registering 800 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, more than double the national incidence rate.
In the short term, health authorities are targeting 10,000 strokes per week at the stadium.
France is experiencing a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, with intensive care admissions topping the worst levels seen in the second wave in November 2020.
In response, the government has extended regional measures, including a night curfew and travel restrictions, to the entire country, and closed schools for three weeks.
President Emmanuel Macron has promised a strong acceleration of the vaccination campaign, aiming for a total of 20 million inoculations by mid-May for the nation of 67 million, and 30 million by mid-June.
After much criticism for the slow start of the vaccine launch in France, the program has recently picked up speed.
More than a million new vaccines were reported over the weekend, bringing the total of having received at least one dose of the two-cycle treatment to 9.3 million.
The government expects to receive 12 million new doses of vaccines in April.
The more than 5,400 Covid patients in intensive care are still well below the 7,000 registered in April 2020 just after the pandemic started, but Health Minister Olivier Véran said on Monday that “we may be approaching ”to the first wave peak.
After canceling or delaying non-Covid surgery appointments, France now has a total capacity of 8,000 intensive care beds available for coronavirus cases, it said.
The Health Ministry said it expected infection numbers to peak over the next week, but another spike is likely when primary school pupils return after Easter break at the end of the month.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism