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HEALTH

Coronavirus death toll in France rises by 112 as parliament declares ‘health emergency’

The number of people who have died in France because of the coronavirus outbreak has increased by another 112 to a total of 674, the top French health official said on Sunday.

Coronavirus death toll in France rises by 112 as parliament declares 'health emergency'
Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

The rise in the death toll was identical to that of the previous day when it also rose by 112.

“The virus kills and it is continuing to kill,” said top French health chief Jerome Salomon as he announced the new numbers at a daily briefing.

“We are evolving quickly towards a generalised epidemic in the country,” Salomon said as he urged the public to “strictly respect the confinement rules.”

“It continues to spread and become more serious,” he said.

Wash your hands and always stay a metre from people, Salomon said.

READ: First French hospital doctor dies of coronavirus

What's the latest information on the coronavirus epidemic in France?

He said that a total of 16,018 cases of infection had been recorded in France, while warning this was an “underestimate” as not all of those with the virus had been tested, even though 4,000 tests were now being done every day.

A total of 7,240 people have been hospitalised after falling ill with the virus, he added. Of those hospitalised, 1,746 are in intensive care. 

France has been in lockdown since Tuesday, with only essential trips outside allowed, but Salomon urged the French to show “patience” before the daily figures showed the effect of the measures.

35 percent of the cases are people under the age of 65. 

Of those who have been confirmed to have the virus, 2,200 people have recovered completely. 

It was also revealed on Sunday that French police had handed out over 90,000 fines to those who had not respected the rules of confinement.

'Emergency'

On Sunday France's two-chamber parliament adopted a bill declaring a health emergency in the country to counter the spread of the coronavirus, a move that gives the government greater powers to fight the spread of the disease.

The text was agreed by the upper house Senate and was later in the evening expected to pass its final legislative hurdle by being adopted by the lower house National Assembly dominated by President Emmanuel Macron's ruling party.

The law also allows the government to take measures to support companies and also backs up its decision to delay to second round of municipal elections, saying these should take place in June at the latest.

France has from Tuesday been in a nationwide lockdown, with only essential trips outside the house allowed, to battle the coronavirus that has already killed hundreds and infected thousands more in the country.

The adoption of the text by the Senate, which is controlled by the opposition, was held up by wrangling between the two chambers with the right-wing parties fearing the risk of infringements on civil liberties.

“We are not in agreement on all the points,” said the leader of the opposition Republicans in the Senate, Bruno Retailleau. “But we are voting for it as we don't want to hold up the action of the government.”

In the Senate, the bill was passed by a show of hands.

The text, based on legislation agreed after 2015 terror attacks in France, declares a “state of health emergency” along the lines of a state of emergency declared during a threat to national security. 

The emergency lasts for two months from the day of its adoption, although it can be extended by lawmakers.

Only a handful of lawmakers were physically present to pass the legislation with most voting by proxy, in line with the social distancing rules currently in force to fight the coronavirus.

 

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STRIKES

French doctors to stage more strikes in February

General practitioners in France are planning another industrial action that will see doctors' offices closed as they call for better investment in community healthcare.

French doctors to stage more strikes in February

Primary care doctors in France announced plans to strike again in February, after walkouts in December and over the Christmas-New Year holidays in early January.

The strike will take place on Tuesday, February 14th, and it comes just a few weeks ahead of the end-of-February deadline where France’s social security apparatus, Assurance Maladie, must reach an agreement to a structure for fees for GPs for the next five years.

Hospital doctors in France are largely barred from striking, but community healthcare workers such as GPs are self-employed and therefore can walk out. 

Their walk-out comes amid mass strike actions in February over the French government’s proposed pension reform. You can find updated information on pensions strikes HERE.

Previous industrial action led to widespread closures of primary care medical offices across the country. In December, strike action saw between 50 to 70 percent of doctor’s surgeries closed.

READ MORE: Urgent care: How to access non-emergency medical care in France

New concerns among GPs

According to reporting by La Depeche, in the upcoming strike in February primary care doctors will also be walking out over a new fear – the possibility of compulsory ‘on-call’ hours.

Currently, French GPs take on-call hours on a voluntary basis. Obligatory on-call time for primary care doctors was scrapped in the early 2000s after GPs mobilised against the requirement.

However, representatives from the Hospital Federation have called for it to be reinstated in order to help relieve emergency services.

Additionally, GPs are calling for Saturday shifts to considered as part of their standard working week, in order to allow for a two-day weekend.

Striking primary care doctors are more broadly calling for actions by the government and Assurance Maladie to help make the field more appealing to younger physicians entering the profession, as the country faces more medical deserts, and for working conditions to be improved.

Those walking out hope to see administrative procedures to be simplified and for the basic consultation fee – typically capped to €25 – to be doubled to €50.

In France patients pay the doctor upfront for a visit, and then a portion of the fee is reimbursed by the government via the carte vitale health card.

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