France to set up military hospital as coronavirus death toll continues to rise

As the coronavirus death toll in France rose to 372 - with more than 100 deaths in the last 24 hours - France has announced the creation of a military hospital in the worst affected area.

France to set up military hospital as coronavirus death toll continues to rise
Hospitals in the worst affected areas are struggling to cope. Photo: AFP

The town of Mulhouse in the Haut-Rhin département in eastern France is to get a military hospital as local medical services struggle to cope with the number of cases.

The development was announced in the evening briefing from Director General of Health Jérome Salomon.

He confirmed that the death toll in France now stands at 372, with 108 deaths in the last 24 hours.

The total number of confirmed cases in France since the outbreak began is 10,995, although France is now only testing people who fall into certain groups.

On Thursday night, there were 4,761 people in hospital, 1,122 in intensive care. Half the people in intensive care are younger than 60.

READ ALSO Coronavirus testing in France – how does it work and who gets tested?

Salomon said that the number of cases is now doubling every four days and the virus is now spreading “rapidly and intensely.”

He echoed pleas from political leaders for people to respect the lockdown measures, saying the message was: “Stay at home, stay at home, stay at home.”

France has been on lockdown since Tuesday, with everyone ordered to stay at home and only venture out on essential errands.

However there has been widespread flouting of the measures, with 4,000 fines issued in the first full day.

READ ALSO France's coronavirus lockdown – what are the rules?

France's Interior Minister Christophe Castaner bluntly said those people breaking the rules were “idiots”.

He told Europe 1 radio: “There are people who think they are modern-day heroes by breaking the rules while they are in fact idiots.

Genevieve Chene, who heads France's public health agency, said two to four weeks of confinement are needed for the outbreak to be adequately contained.

“It is likely that it is indeed necessary to extend (the containment measures) in order for the braking to be sufficient,” Chene said.

The timing will depend largely on how closely people conform with the confinement measures, she said, adding that France's peak was likely to be around the middle or end of May.

The current lockdown lasts until the end of March, but the government has always made it clear that it would be extended if necessary.



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France launches ski safety campaign after rising number of accidents

Injuries and even deaths while skiing in France have seen a sharp rise in recent years - leading the French government to create a new ski safety campaign.

France launches ski safety campaign after rising number of accidents

The early part of the ski season in France was dominated by headlines over the lack of snow in popular mountain resorts – but, now that climatic conditions have started to improve for skiers and there is at least some snow, the winter sports season is in gearing up to hit full swing.

READ ALSO Snow latest: Have France’s ski resorts reopened?

Heading into the winter holiday season – French schools in ‘Zone A’ break up for two weeks on February 4th, followed on February 11th by schools in ‘Zone B’, while schools in Zone C finish for the vacation on February 18th – the government has launched an awareness campaign highlighting skiing good practice and how to avoid accidents.

READ ALSO What can I do if I’ve booked a French skiing holiday and there’s no snow?

The Pratiquer l’hiver campaign has advice, posters and videos highlighting safety on the slopes, in an effort to reduce the number of accidents on France’s mountains – where, every year, between 42,000 and 51,000 people have to be rescued, according to the Système National d’Observation de la Sécurité en Montagne (SNOSM)

The campaign, with information in a number of languages including English, covers:

  • on-piste and off-piste safety advice (signalling, avalanche risks, freestyle areas, snowshoes, ski touring, etc.);
  • Help and instructions for children explained in a fun and educational way (educational games, games of the 7 families to be cut out, safety quizzes, advice sheets for sledding, skiing, prevention clips, etc.);
  • physical preparation (warm up before exercise, prepare your muscles and stretch well, also how to adapt the choice of pistes and the speed to your physical condition);
  • equipment and safety (helmet, goggles, sunscreen, etc.);
  • marking and signalling on the slopes (opening and marking of green, blue, red and black slopes, off-piste).

There are 220 ski resorts in France, the world’s second largest ski area, covering more than 26,500 hectares of land, across 30 departements.

In the 2021/22 ski season, totalling 53.9 million ‘ski days’, according to SNOSM, emergency services made 49,622 interventions in France’s ski areas, and 45,985 victims were treated for injuries.

The results show an increase in the number of interventions by ski safety services – a rise of 13 percent compared to the average of the five years prior to the pandemic – and the number of injured, up 8 percent. 

A few incidents on the slopes made the headlines at the time, including the five-year-old British girl who died after an adult skier crashed into her in the Alpine resort of Flaine, and the French actor Gaspard Ulliel, who died at the age of 37 after an accident while skiing in La Rosière, Savoie.

In total, 12 people died as a result of skiing incidents in France in the 2021/22 ski season. Three died following collisions between skiers, two after hitting an obstacle, and seven as a result of a fall or solo injuries. SNOSM also reported “a significant number of non-traumatic deaths, mostly due to cardiac problems” on France’s ski slopes.

The injuries due to solo falls – which represent 95 percent of all injuries –  on the ski slopes increased 2 percent compared to winter 2018/2019. Collisions between users fell, however (4.8 percent against . 5.6 percent) as did collisions between skiers and other people, and obstacles (0.7 percent compared to 0.85 percent).

The number of fatalities caused by avalanches, however, is at a historic low over the period 2011 to 2021, in part because of a relative lack of snow – leading to a drop in the number of avalanches and fewer people going off-piste, while awareness campaigns are hitting their mark, according to SNOSM.