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HEALTH

Coronavirus: What do we know so far about the people who have died in France?

As the death rate in France from coronavirus continues to rise, we look at who is worst affected by the illness.

Coronavirus: What do we know so far about the people who have died in France?
The French government met with health personnel this week. Photo: AFP

Nearly 1,800 people in France have been confirmed as having the illness so far and 33 people have died, according to the latest numbers released by French health authorities on Tuesday evening.

You can keep up with our latest coronavirus coverage here

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

Health Director Jérôme Salomon reminded the country that, despite the rising death toll, in most cases the virus manifested itself through milder symptoms similar to those of a cold or a flu.

READ ALSO What to expect if France declares a coronavirus epidemic


From left, health minister Olivier Véran, president Emmanuel Macron and Director General of Health Jérome Salomon. Photo: AFP

Overall the World Health Organisation has said that 80 percent of people who get the virus will experience mild symptoms, while 15 percent will develop problems such as pneumonia which may require hospital treatment. Five percent of cases are considered critical.

This is largely corresponding to the pattern that France has seen so far, with 80 to 85 percent of the cases experiencing only mild symptoms.

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

The world death rate has been listed as around 3.5 percent while in France so far the death rate was at 1.85 percent, although both figures have caveats that the situation is still developing and, in regards to France's figures, are taken from a statistically small data sample.

Elderly people and those with underlying health conditions have made up the majority of the deaths so far, both in France and around the world.

Jérome Salomon, Director General of Health in France, reiterated on Tuesday evening that those who have died in France were mostly elderly with serious underlying medical conditions.

Nineteen of the people who have died were men and 14 women.

Twenty-three of the 33 people who have died from the virus were more than 75 years old and all of them suffered from serious underlying health issues before catching the virus, Salomon said.

Four were between 64 and 75 years old. Five of the deaths were people younger than 64 years old, but they all suffered from serious illnesses before they got the virus, according the Health Director.

One of those was a 38-year-old in eastern France.

There has been some confusion in France as to which groups are particularly vulnerable to the virus. After it was reported that asthmatics and people with similar breathing problems had a death rate that was 6.3 percent higher than the rest of the population, health personnel said people were calling in panic for advice on what to do if they catch the virus.

However people with asthma or diabetes were not the ones most threatened by the virus, said a patient association for people in France suffering chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (called BPCO). Last week BPCO lashed out against what they said were misconceptions about the coronavirus in France.

“Stop talking about old people, children (luckily few have been harmed), diabetics and people suffering from cardiovascular issues,” they wrote in a press statement.

“[The coronavirus] destroys you lungs, but it's not asthmatics who are in vital danger, it's the 700,000 BCPO patients in serious condition who no one is talking about.”

Salomon this week urged everybody to follow health advice in order to limit the spread and protect those most vulnerable to the illness.

“This is the time to protect our weakest,” Salomon said. “The elderly must benefit from the solidarity of the whole country.”

One of the latest deaths was the first on the island of Corsica – an 89-year-old man who died in hospital in Ajaccio. Corsica had not reported any cases for most of last week, but with 38 cases now reported in the Ajaccio area it is being considered a cluster zone. 

The total number of cluster zones in France have now reached nine.

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

Since the death toll passed a certain number, there has naturally been less details released about each victim and their health status. We know more about the first victims of the virus and you can read about them here:

1. Chinese tourist, 81

The first death announced was that of an 81-year-old Chinese tourist who had travelled to Paris. He was hospitalised on January 25th with a fever, tested positive for coronavirus and died on February 14th. His daughter, 50, who had travelled with him also contracted the virus but recovered.

2. French technology teacher, 60

The first wave of cases in France were all connected to travel to China, but the second wave began after a major outbreak in neighbouring Italy. The first death in the second wave was a 60-year-old technology teacher from the Oise département in north east France. The man, who was transferred to the specialist Pitié Sâlpetière hospital in Paris where he died, had not travelled to either China or Italy and how he contracted the virus remains a mystery. His local paper reported that he died of a pulmonary embolism.

3. Seriously ill pensioner, 89

An 89-year-old woman also in Oise was the next victim. The woman, described as “very popular” and involved in many community activities in her hometown of Crépy-en-Valois had been suffering from a serious underlying medical condition, said health authorities. She was admitted to hospital in Compiègne and post-mortem tests established that she had coronavirus.

4. Breton man, 92

The next case was from Brittany, where a 92-year-old man from the Morbihan département was admitted to hospital in Vannes in a serious condition and died the next day.

5. Dialysis patient, 73

The next victim was also from Crépy-en-Valois in Oise. The 73-year-old man, who had been on dialysis due to kidney failure, was diagnosed with coronavirus on February 29th after suffering severe respiratory problems and died four days later.

6. Aisne man, 63

The next death reported was that of a 63-year-old man in the neighbouring Aisne département. Health authorities believe that he had contracted the virus through contact with one of the patients in Crépy-en-Valois. He was hospitalised in Soissons on February 29th and died five days later.

7. Retirement home resident, 79

The seventh case was again in Crépy-en-Valois, a 79-year-old man who lived in a retirement home and had been hospitalised since February 28th with severe respiratory symptoms.

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

The French government's advice is that the majority of the population can continue their daily lives, taking these basic health precautions.

  • Wash hands your thoroughly and often with soap and water, especially after coughing and sneezing or before eating or it you have been touching surfaces that many other people will have touched such as on the Metro
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, especially with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. Cover your mouth with your elbow when coughing
  • Use disposable tissues and throw them away after use
  • Clean off surfaces with alcohol- or chlorine-based disinfectants.

In some of the départements of France where 'clusters' of patients have been identified all public gatherings have been banned and schools closed.

In the rest of the country gatherings of more than 1,000 people have been banned, but for the most part life continues as normal.

People have been advised to stop shaking hands or kissing during the outbreak in order to slow down the spread of the illness.

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

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HEALTH

French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

After the seismic decision of the US Supreme Court on Friday, French MPs are calling for the right to abortion in France to be protected by the constitution.

French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

Lawmakers from French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party are to propose a parliamentary bill on Saturday that would enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution. 

The move comes after the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” decision on Friday.

“In France we guarantee and advance the rights of women. We protect them,” said Aurore Bergé – the head of Renaissance in the Assemblée nationale and one of the key sponsors of the bill. 

Another co-sponsor, Marie-Pierre Rixain tweeted: “What happens in elsewhere cannot happen in France. We must protect the right to abortion for future generations. 

In 2018 and 2019, Emmanuel Macron’s party – which back then was known as La République en Marche – refused to back bills proposed by left-wing party, La France Insoumise, to enshrine abortion rights into the constitution. 

In a Saturday interview with France Inter, Bergé suggested that the success of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National during parliamentary elections earlier this month had created a sense of newfound urgency. 

She described the far-right MPs as “fierce opponents of women’s access to abortion” and said it was important “to take no risk” in securing it. 

READ MORE France’s Macron condemns US abortion ruling

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has come out in support of the bill. 

The left-wing opposition block, NUPES, also backs it and had planned to propose an identical piece legislation of its own on Monday. 

Macron is seeking parliamentary allies to pass reforms after his formation lost its majority in legislative elections earlier this month.

The legal timeframe to terminate a pregnancy in France was extended from 12 to 14 weeks in the last legislature.

Changing the constitution requires the National Assembly and Senate to adopt the same text, then a three-fifths majority of parliament sitting in congress. The other option is a referendum.

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