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HEALTH

Coronavirus LATEST: France’s elderly urged to stay home as Disneyland Paris closes gates

The coronavirus outbreak continued to have a huge impact on life in France on Friday as President Emmanuel Macron announced schools are to close and urged over-70s to remain in doors. Disneyland Paris also closed its gates.

Coronavirus LATEST: France's elderly urged to stay home as Disneyland Paris closes gates
French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the country on Thursday. Photo: AFP

 As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in France topped 2,870 on Thursday and the death toll reached 61, French President Emmanuel Macron announced new measures to contain the spread in the country. 

“I want to be very clear with you tonight,” Macron said during a televised speech on Thursday evening. “We are only at the beginning of the epidemic.” 

The president urged anyone aged over 70, disabled or in poor health to stay at home and limit social contact as much as possible. Starting Monday, all schools in the country will close their doors for an unspecified amount of time.

“The education sector has entered stage 3,” education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer confirmed on Friday morning.

Just 24 hours earlier Blanquer had said that the government “never envisaged” closing all of the country's schools, because it would be “counter-productive” to “paralyse a large part of the country.” 

While President had not said whether the country had entered stage 3 – a full-blown epidemic status – although he had previously said that France was very close to such a state.

 “We have anticipated, we are prepared and we have excellent staff,” Macron said as he visited a hospital earlier this week.

READ ALSO What to expect when France declares a coronavirus epidemic

On Friday, the popular tourist park Disneyland Paris announced that it would temporarily shut its gates, after three of its staff tested positive for the coronavirus this week. The decision came after the park had previously said it would remain open to visitors but with “temporary adjustments” to its cancellation policy for anyone wishing to cancel reservation at the Disney Hotel through April 15th.

The country also suspended all matches in its top football divisions. The country's professional rugby league also announced a suspension.

France is also included in the list of Schengen zone countries which the USA has banned flights from. Many aspects of the ban, announced by US president Donald Trump on Wednesday night, are still unclear but it seems that American citizens are not covered, nor are flights via the UK.

Health minister Olivier Véran said on Wednesday night that 105 people were in hospital in a serious condition.

French Health Director Jérôme Salomon has previously stressed that so far, 98 percent of people diagnosed with coronavirus in France make a full recovery.

France had already enacted restrictions on gatherings of more than 1,000 people and the 10 'cluster' zones where the majority of cases have been diagnosed have strict restrictions on any type of public gathering.

However the first round of the municipal elections will go ahead as planned on Sunday, President Macron confirmed on Thursday evening.

“There is nothing to suggest the French shouldn't go to the polls,” he said, refuting claims that the elections could not be held because people would abstain from voting out of fear of the virus.
 

Areas now considered 'cluster' zones are;  Mulhouse in the Haut-Rhin département in eastern France, Oise in the north east, Morbihan in Brittany, two areas in Haute-Savoie in the Alps, the entire island of Corsica,the Aude département in southern France, Calvados in Normandy and eastern Montpellier.

A tenth cluster was a tour group that had travelled to Egypt, with 13 people testing positive for the infection.

Schools in the Oise and Haut-Rhin département have been closed for a week, and the island of Corsica followed suit as well as 16 communes in the eastern part of Montpellier and the surrounding Hérault département.

Corsica, which did not initially record any cases, has now confirmed 51 cases and a cluster around the capital Ajaccio. On Thursday morning the prefect of Corsica announced that all gatherings of more than 50 people would be banned until April 15th.

MAP: Which regions of France are most affected by coronavirus?


President Emmanuel Macron visiting the Necker hospital in Paris on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

French authorities have been clear since the outbreak first began in Italy that a full epidemic in France is only a matter of time, and have concentrated their efforts on delaying the peak of the spread of the virus.

Macron on Tuesday expressed his gratitude to the “wonderful and courageous” medical services and asked that people continue to “show solidarity” to the most vulnerable in society by following health advice including washing hands and self isolating if necessary.

Five French MPs plus Culture Minister Franck Riester and two staff members at the parliament have also tested positive for coronavirus. The Assemblée Nationale is already on a scheduled break over the period of the municipal elections.

Riester has contracted the novel coronavirus and is staying in his Paris home but is “doing fine”, his office said Monday.

“The minister tested positive today,” after displaying symptoms, the ministry said.

READ ALSO Coronavirus in France – how worried should you be?

French health minister Olivier Véran. Photo: AFP

All gatherings of more than 1,000 have been banned, a step that will have a huge impact on cultural life in France with numerous concert halls and venues across the country having to postpone upcoming concerts.

Public transport is not covered by the ban, nor are demonstrations.

France had already passed a decree that anyone who is following government advice to self isolate, or whose children are unable to go to school because of coronavirus, is entitled to paid sick leave.

READ ALSO Should I cancel my trip to France because of coronavirus

President Emmanuel Macron had said people should “protect the most vulnerable” and stop visiting older people during the outbreak.

 

France has also banned visits to the country's retirement homes.

Concerts including performances at the Paris Opéra have been cancelled but Paris' largest tourist attractions including the Louvre and Musée d'Orsay remain open, albeit with limits in place on the number of visitors.

Macron has cancelled his normal schedule to deal with the outbreak (and not, the Elysée Palace rushed to reassure people, because he has coronavirus himself).

French ministers have warned against all non-essential travel – especially outside the EU – and advised people in France to stop shaking hands and doing la bise (greeting with a kiss on each cheek) in an attempt to control the infection.

READ ALSO: Bise blues – How the French are coping with the coronavirus kissing ban

A man wearing a protective mask shops in the market of Crepy-in-Valois before its evacuation following the outbreak of COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus. Photo: AFP 

The government has requisitioned the country's stocks of masks to distribute to health professionals and people self isolating, in a bid to stop people panic buying and creating shortages for those who need them.

Health minister Véran has said “masks are indispensable” in hospitals, but “pointless” for anyone who is not themselves either a health worker or contaminated by the virus. 

Fears of catching the virus have sparked a run on masks as well as sanitising hand gel in France, leading some stores and online retailers to hike prices.

The price of hand sanitser was capped last week by government decree a €3 per 100ml.

READ ALSO The everyday precautions you can take to stay safe in France

French police officers evacuate the market of Crepy-in-Valois on March 1, 2020, following the outbreak of COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus. Photo: AFP

 

Member comments

  1. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced on Friday night that all schools, colleges and nurseries
    Why not churches?

  2. There is no panic in France from what I have seen. The French authorities have demonstrated good leadership when it comes to dealing with this outbreak and life is going on pretty much as normal here (we are on the Finistere, Morbihan border), especially when compared to the UK/Australia/USA.

  3. Chez Moi. Total lock down or at the very least reduce public gatherings to 100 or less curtail transport between countries to commercial freight only.

  4. Huh, boggy? France has no such down, yet the reported cases are VERY low compared to Italy. The only problem I see that is idiot in the white house. As usual.

  5. Chez Moi, Americans living in France and totality agree about the idiot living in the White House.

  6. More unnecessary panic!
    GET REAL!
    Someone, please, get that f——g cretin out of the white house.
    This latest travel ban is so HIM – CLUELESS!

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HEALTH

Experts warn of high levels of flu in France this winter

Experts have warned of a particularly bad flu epidemic this winter in France due to a combination of lowered immune systems and 'vaccine apathy' - urging high-risk groups to get their shot as soon as the flu vaccination campaign begins in October.

Experts warn of high levels of flu in France this winter

France’s annual flu vaccine campaign will officially get under way on October 18th this year – and medical experts have warned that this year’s season may be a bad one amid fears of “vaccine apathy”.

When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters in France this autumn

Immunologist Alain Fischer, who chaired France’s Conseil d’orientation de la stratégie vaccinale throughout the Covid-19 pandemic said that the high number of flu cases in Australia and the southern hemisphere in its winter were “a warning sign” that this winter’s flu, coupled with rising cases of Covid-19, could lead to a sharp rise in hospitalisations again in the winter.

“For two years, influenza has been kept at bay, thanks to the barrier measures we have put in place against Covid,” he told Le Parisien. 

“This year, it will be difficult to maintain the same level of protection: masks, distancing, intensive hand washing … Faced with this relaxation, there is a serious risk of flu epidemic.”

Between two million and six million people contract flu every winter in France. The infection is responsible for between 4,000 and 6,000 deaths every year, usually among people aged 65 and over. But in ‘bad’ flu years, that mortality figure can rise rapidly.

READ ALSO When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters this autumn in France

The country, meanwhile, is at the start of what is being described as an “eighth wave” of Covid, and the Haute Autorité de santé recommends the eligible, vulnerable people ensure they are vaccinated against both viruses as early as possible. “A Covid-flu cohabitation is not a good thing,”  Fischer said. “It is synonymous with a very high number of hospitalisations. 

“Hence the objective of two strong vaccination campaigns – Covid and flu – especially for the most vulnerable.”

“The double injection is very good, and practical for patients. But I think that we should not wait, especially vulnerable people. It is a mistake to think that you will get your Covid booster when the flu vaccine is here – the Covid jab should not be delayed.”

Currently less than 40 percent of people eligible for a fourth Covid vaccine have received their latest dose.

Dual-strain Covid-19 vaccines designed to combat both delta and omicron variants will be available in France from October 3rd.

READ ALSO France approves new vaccines for Covid Omicron sub-variants

“It is quite possible to get your Covid injection in early October and flu vaccine in late October – you will need both anyway,” Fischer said.

The Haute Autorité de Santé recommends influenza vaccination for the following groups:

  • people aged 65 and over; 
  • people with chronic diseases; 
  • pregnant women;
  • people suffering from obesity (BMI equal to or greater than 40 kg/m 2 );
  • Infants under 6 months at risk of serious influenza;
  • Families and others close to immunocompromised people; 
  • home help workers caring for vulnerable individuals.

For anyone in these groups, the flu vaccine is 100 percent covered by health insurance and delivered free of charge to the pharmacy, on presentation of a voucher.

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