France’s coronavirus lockdown ‘very likely’ to be extended

France's two-week home confinement will "very likely" have to be extended to curb the novel coronavirus pandemic, the head of the country's public health agency said on Thursday.

France's coronavirus lockdown 'very likely' to be extended
Photo: AFP

“Between two and four weeks” would be required for the outbreak to be contained, Genevieve Chene – director general of Santé Publique France – told Franceinfo radio, which means an extension of the home confinement that began Tuesday would “very likely be necessary.”

The strict lockdown rules, brought into force at 12 noon on Tuesday, were initially set for 15 days.

However, this was described as 'a minimum of 15 days' and the government sad they would be following advice on what other measures may be necessary.

The lockdown orders everyone to stay in their homes and people are only allowed out for certain essential trips – and each time they leave home they must take a signed form with them stating the purpose of their trip.

People are allowed out for

  • Travel to and from work IF work is essential and cannot be done from home
  • Shopping for food or visiting the pharmacy
  • Medical appointments
  • Vital family reasons, such as providing care for children or the elderly, but not for family visits
  • Individual physical exercise such as jogging or walking the dog, but this must be done alone

Italy has also announced this morning that its lockdown is to be extended beyond April 3rd, its original end date.

READ ALSO France's coronavirus lockdown – your questions answered

Chene said the experience of other hard-hit countries had shown that the outbreak peaks after one to two months, and lasts about two to three months overall.

Based on the outbreak in China, where the virus first emerged in December, France's peak would happen around the middle or end of May, she added.

She said there are probably “more cases in France than can be confirmed every day.”


Member comments

  1. “”Between two and four weeks” would be required for the outbreak to be contained”

    Surprised by this quote. According to my Chinese colleague, her compatriots are still in lockdown today, after it came into effect in the later half of January. I think 2 to 4 weeks is the minimum to see some positive effects on the transmission rates (it takes a while from initial infection to being formally diagnosed, if you get tested at all). So we could be in this for a while.

    However I’m no expert so what do I know.

  2. I believe the minimum would be realistic if more of the public were taking the lockdown seriously. I was dumbfounded yesterday when my neighbor’s two small kids knocked on my door asking for my annual sponsorship of their school fundraiser. What can their parents be thinking?

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Carte vitale: France to adopt a new ‘biometric’ health card

The French parliament has approved a €20 million project to launch a 'biometric' version of the carte vitale health insurance card.

Carte vitale: France to adopt a new 'biometric' health card

As part of the French government’s package of financial aid for the cost-of-living crisis, €20 million will be set set aside to launch a biometric health card, after an amendment proposed by senators was approved.

Right-wing senators made this measure a “condition” of their support for the financial aid package, according to French left-wing daily Libération, and on Thursday the measure was approved by the Assemblée nationale.

While it sounds quite high tech, the idea is relatively simple, according to centre-right MP Thibault Bazin: the carte vitale would be equipped with a chip that “contains physical characteristics of the insured, such as their fingerprints” which would allow healthcare providers to identify them.

The carte vitale is the card that allows anyone registered in the French health system to be reimbursed for medical costs such as doctor’s appointments, medical procedures and prescriptions. The card is linked to the patient’s bank account so that costs are reimbursed directly into the bank account, usually within a couple of days.

READ ALSO How a carte vitale works and how to get one

According to the centre-right Les Républicains group, the reason for having a ‘biometric’ carte vitale is to fight against welfare fraud.

They say this would have two functions; firstly the biometric data would ensure the card could only be used by the holder, and secondly the chip would allow for instant deactivation if the card was lost of stolen.

Support for the biometric carte vitale has mostly been concentrated with right-wing representatives, however, opponants say that the implementation of the tool would be costly and lengthy.

It would involve replacing at least 65 million cards across France and repurposing them with biometric chips, in addition to taking fingerprints for all people concerned.

Additionally, all healthcare professionals would have to join the new system and be equipped with devices capable of reading fingerprints. 

Left-leaning representatives have also voiced concerns regarding the protection of personal data and whether plans would comply with European regulations for protecting personal data, as the creation of ‘biometric’ carte vitales would inevitably lead to the creation of a centralised biometric database. Additionally, there are concerns regarding whether this sensitive personal information could be exposed to cybercrime, as the health insurance system in France has been targeted by hackers in the past.

Finally, there is concern that the amount of financial loss represented by carte vitale fraud has been overestimated. The true figures are difficult to establish, but fraud related to carte vitale use is only a small part of general welfare fraud, which also covers unemployment benefits and other government subsidy schemes.

The scheme is set to begin in the autumn, but there us no information on how this will be done, and whether the biometric chip will just be added to new cards, or whether existing cards will be replaced with new ones.