France announced an acceleration of its much-criticized Covid-19 vaccination campaign on Sunday, increasing the gap between the two doses of the mRNA jabs to speed up basic protection, making the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine available to anyone over 55 and rolling out the first supplies of the new Johnson & Johnson product this week.

“We’re seeing the first signs that the behavior of the French, the restrictions put in place and the vaccinations have brought the very strong rise [of the pandemic] under control,” health minister Olivier VĂ©ran said in an interview in Le Journal du Dimanche.

Like its EU neighbors, France has been constrained by limited supplies of vaccine doses and has been criticised for the slowness of its inoculation campaign compared to the UK and the US, but supplies are increasing rapidly and France injected more than 510,000 doses on Friday.

In Germany, the number of people who received the first jab jumped by more than a quarter within a week to 12.7m, according to data published by the Robert Koch Institute, a public health body, on Saturday, lifting the share of people with at least one shot to 15.2 percent.

Last Thursday alone, a record 719 000 people were vaccinated. The acceleration was driven by GPs, who have been provided with vaccines since early April. The government is planning to supply GPs with one million doses per week, health

In Italy, the seven-day moving average of daily inoculations has stayed above 200,000 new doses administered per day since March 26, according to the FT’s vaccine tracker. Officials have said they were optimistic restrictions could be eased soon if the pace of immunization continued to pick up, but they have stopped short of offering precise dates. Lockdown easing criteria now include an assessment of each region’s vaccine drive.

France is among the European countries struggling to control a lethal “third wave” dominated by the more infectious and sometimes dangerous B.1.1.7 variant of the virus that was first identified in England. The whole country is under a lockdown that includes restrictions on travel, shop closures and a 7pm6am curfew.

Berlin is also preparing to tighten the lockdown as infection numbers are still high and hospital beds filling quickly with Covid-19 patients. The government is planning to impose country-wide curfew rules for the first time, which would