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HEALTH

Coronavirus: France bans large enclosed events to try to prevent spread

The Paris half-marathon, which was scheduled for Sunday, has been cancelled as the number of confirmed cases in France rose to 100.

Coronavirus: France bans large enclosed events to try to prevent spread
The race was due to take place on Sunday. Photo: Harmonie Mutuelle Semi de Paris
The announcement came after the French government ordered the cancellation of “gatherings of more than 5,000 people” in enclosed areas as well as some external events.
   
As of 6pm on Saturday, the Director General said that France had 100 confirmed cases, nine of which are patients in a serious condition.
 
French Health Minister Olivier Veran said the cancellations of external events would affect gatherings in open areas where there would be “intermingling with populations from areas affected by the virus”.
 
 
In a statement on Twitter, the race's organisers said that it had agreed with city authorities to hold the race at an future date, which it said it would announce as soon as possible.  
 
 
   
Also cancelled was the final day of the Paris Salon de l'Agriculture – which attracts people from all over France – and the Annecy carnival. Organisers of the Nice carnival had already decided not to stage the final day on Sunday.
 
The weekend programme of French Ligue 1 football matches is unaffected and will go ahead as planned – although the players will not shake hands in line with the latest health advice.
   
Extra measures have also been put in place in six communes in the two départements most affected by the virus – Oise and Haute-Savoie. In those areas all large gatherings have been banned – including Sunday Mass – and residents advised to limit their journeys to essential movement only.
 
Since the start of the outbreak in France on January 24th, two people have died, a 60-year-old French teacher and an 80-year-old Chinese tourist.
 
Of the 12 people who contracted the virus in the first waved, 11 made a complete recovery and have been released from hospital.
 
The 88 other cases have all been reported since Tuesday.
 
Véran added: “We are now moving to stage two. The virus is circulating in our country and we must stop its spread.”

Existing hygiene advice – regular handwashing, using disposable tissues, covering you mouth with you elbow when you cough – remains in place, but the minister added: “I now recommend people avoid shaking hands.”

France has launched a special hotline number so worried members of the public can seek help and advice that is manned 24/7.

The number is 0800 130 000. The emergency number 15 should only be used if the a member of the public believes they are suffering from a medical condition linked to coronavirus.

 

The official total of 73 includes 11 who fully recovered from the virus earlier this month and 2 fatalities, one a 60-year-old teacher from northern France the other an elderly Chinese tourist.

French authorities have been stepping up preparations ever since the major outbreak of coronavirus over the border in Italy was reported over the weekend.

French ministers held an emergency meeting on Sunday night to discuss the situation in Italy, and began stepping up preparations in France, including preparing 70 extra hospitals to receive coronavirus patients and tripling the resources for the country's testing programme.

However authorities said they would not be closing the border with Italy.

“It doesn't make much sense,” said Jérôme Salomon. “Not to mention that you can travel by land, sea and air, or go through Italy and Austria.”

In Paris a major trade event which usually attracts thousands of people from around the world has been cancelled because of coronavirus fears.

The JEC World Leading International Composites Show had been scheduled to start on May 12th.

Anyone who has recently returned from Italy or China has been told to self-isolate for two weeks in an attempt to contain the spread of the virus.

On its website, the French government urged those returning from the listed places to “avoid all non-essential outings”, giving as examples “big gatherings, restaurants, the cinema”, for two weeks after their return and to keep their children home from daycare or school. 

Employees and students were encouraged to work from home “in so far as possible” and to avoid meetings, elevators and cafeterias.

Schools are currently asking all pupils recently returned from China, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea or Italy to stay at home for a fortnight.

Italy is a popular holiday destination for French families during the February holidays, and many schools also run trips there over the break.

Many schools have reported issuing advice to pupils to stay at home, and there are expected to be more on Monday when the new term starts for schools in zone B – Aix-Marseille and Nice.

France was the first country in Europe to confirm cases of coronavirus on January 24th, although then health minister Agnès Buzyn said at the time she believed that was simply because France had developed a better testing protocol than many other countries.

France initially saw five cases diagnosed in late January, all people who had recently travelled from China, where the outbreak began.

A French health worker who had treated a patient then became the sixth person to be infected.

The next six cases were all centred on a ski resort in the French Alps where a British man who had recently returned from Asia passed the virus on to a group of people who had been staying in the same ski chalet.

Apart from the elderly Chinese tourist all 11 recovered.

Until Tuesday, there had been no new cases for over a fortnight, but as more cases were confirmed in Italy, then Spain, Austria and Switzerland, French authorities prepared themselves again.

The World Health Organisation reports that of the people who contract the virus, the vast majority will make a full recovery and only five percent of cases are considered critical.

The people who have died so far have generally been elderly or with underlying health conditions.

France has in fact been officially in an epidemic state for normal seasonal flu since the start of February as thousands have fallen sick. Since the start of the flu season in November, 530 people have been admitted to intensive care and 44 people have died.

In France authorities are asking people who think they may have coronavirus symptoms not to go to hospital or their doctor's surgery – instead they should call an ambulance and tell the operator it is a suspected case of coronavirus. The ambulance number in France is 15.

French vocab

Fièvre – fever

Maux de tête – headache

Courbatures – aches

Toux – cough

Difficultés respiratoires – breathing difficulties

Un rhume – a cold

La grippe – the flu

Coronavirus – coronavirus

SAMU – the French ambulance service, or service d'aide médicale urgente, to give them their full name

 

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POLITICS

‘Public opinion is ready’ – These French senators want to legalise marijuana

A group of 31 French senators of the Socialist, Green and Republican parties have come together to write a statement calling for the legalisation of marijuana in France.

'Public opinion is ready' - These French senators want to legalise marijuana

France is known for having some of the strictest laws regarding marijuana consumption in Europe – while simultaneously maintaining one of the highest rates of cannabis usage in the EU. 

A group of French senators – coming from the Socialist, Green and centre-right Les Républicains parties – are trying to change those laws, and have come together to call for marijuana to be legalised in France.

The group of 31 co-signed a statement published in French newspaper, Le Monde, on Wednesday, August 10th.

In the statement, the senators promised to launch a ‘consultation process’ to submit a bill to legalise marijuana “in the coming months.”

The proposition was headed by Senator Gilbert-Luc Devinaz, a member of the Socialist Party, and gained support from the party’s leader, Patrick Kanner.

READ MORE: The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

A report by the Assemblé Nationale, which was published in May 2021, estimated that nearly 18 million French people (more than 25 percent of the population) had already consumed marijuana, and that an additional 1.5 million consume it regularly.

This, coupled with the 2019 finding that nearly one in two French people (45 percent) said they were in favour of legalisation, according to a survey by the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), helped strengthen the senators’ position.

“Public opinion is ready, the legislature must act,” they wrote.

Their senators argue that legalising marijuana in France will allow the authorities to better protect French citizens, saying that legalising would not require “minimising the health impacts of cannabis consumption” but rather would allow regulation similar to “public policies for tobacco, alcohol or gambling.”

For the group of 31 senators, the benefits of legalisation would involve a better control over the “health quality of products consumed,” “curbing trafficking in disadvantaged areas,” developing large-scale prevention plans,” and finally the taxation of cannabis products and redirection of law enforcement resources. Decriminalisation – in their opinion – would not be sufficient as this would simply “deprive authorities the ability to act,” in contrast to legalisation. 

READ MORE: Is France moving towards legalising cannabis for recreational purposes?

“In the long term, new tax revenues would be generated from the cannabis trade and from savings in the justice and police sectors”, which would make it possible to mobilize “significant resources for prevention as well as for rehabilitation and economic development,” wrote the senators.

In France, the conversation around cannabis has evolved in recent years – former Health Minister (and current government spokesman) Olivier Véran said to France Bleu in September 2021 that “countries that have gone towards legalisation have results better than those of France in the last ten years,” adding that he was interested in the potential therapeutic use of cannabis.

Currently, the drug is illegal in France. Previously, it fell under a 1970-law of illicit drug use, making it punishable with up to a year prison and an up to €3,750 fine.

However, in 2020, the government softened the penalties, making it possible for those caught consuming it to opt for an on-the-spot fine of €200.

There is also an ongoing trial involving 3,000 patients to test the impacts of medical marijuana usage, particularly with regard to pain relief. 

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