Coronavirus death toll in France rises above 2,500 after almost 300 fatalities in 24 hours

The death toll from coronavirus continued to rise on Sunday as health chiefs reported another 292 deaths, bringing the overall total since the epidemic began to 2,606.

Coronavirus death toll in France rises above 2,500 after almost 300 fatalities in 24 hours
Photo: AFP

French health chief Jérôme Salomon also said the number of coronavirus patients in intensive care had risen by 359 in the last 24 hours to a total of 4,632.

Some 34 percent of those in intensive care were under the age of 60, Salomon reported.

In total there were 19,354 patients in hospitals across France being treated for coronavirus. Salomon also said 7,132 patients are now known to have fully recovered from the virus.

The death toll of 2,606 is likely to rise given that it only includes those who died in hospitals. A rising number of coronavirus patients are known to have died in care homes for the elderly.

In recent days authorities have been warning that the situation will worsen in the Paris region of Île-de-France, where 823 people have now died.

Health authorities in the region reported another 1,176 confirmed cases on Sunday bringing the total since the epidemic began to over 12,000. However the real number is likely far higher.

There were some 1,694 patients in intensive care in the Paris region on Sunday, a rise of 6.1 percent in 24 hours.

On Saturday evening French PM Edouard Philippe warned that the first 15 days of April will be more difficult than the 15 previous 15 days.

On Sunday March 29th France staged its largest evacuation of coronavirus patients to date from hospitals in the hard-hit east, increasing efforts to free up intensive care units as officials brace for even more serious cases in the coming days.

Two specially modified TGV high-speed trains carried 36 patients from Mulhouse and Nancy toward hospitals along France's western coast, where the outbreak has been limited so far.

Dozens of hospital workers, flanked by police and soldiers standing guard, spent hours installing four patients in each wagon in an operation that began before dawn.

In Maps: How the coronavirus epidemic has hit different parts of France

“We have to free up beds, it's absolutely crucial that we air out these intensive care units. We're still seeing an increase in patient numbers,” said Francois Brun, head of emergency services at the regional hospital in nearby Metz.

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French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The French parliament has passed the controversial health bill which updates France's emergency provisions for Covid - and allows the return of negative Covid tests for all travellers at the border, if the health situation requires.

French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The Loi sanitaire was eventually approved by the Assemblée nationale on Monday after several variations and amendments added on its passage through the Assemblée and the Senate. It was voted on and passed Tuesday, May 26th. 

The bill replaces the State of Health Emergency that has been in place since March 2020 and puts in place provision for government actions should the health situation deteriorate or a dangerous new variant of Covid emerge.

The original text had a provision for the return of the health pass at the border, but this has now been scrapped and instead the government has the right to make a negative Covid test a condition of entry for all travellers.

At present negative tests are required only for unvaccinated travellers, and the new test requirement would only be put into force if a dangerous new variant emerges.

The government will be able to implement the testing rule by decree for two months, but a further parliamentary debate would be required to extend it beyond that.

From August 1st the State of Health Emergency will be formally repealed, which means that the government no longer has the power to introduce major limits on personal freedom such as lockdowns or curfews without first having a debate in parliament.

The bill also allows for an extension of data collection required for the SI-DEP epidemic monitoring tools such as the contact tracing app Tous Anti Covid until June 30th, 2023 and Contact Covid until January 31st, 2023. 

The most controversial measure in the bill was the reinstatement of healthcare workers who were suspended for being unvaccinated – this actually only involves a couple of hundred people but medical unions and the medical regulator Haut Autorité de Santé (HAS) have both been against it.

However the bill allows for the eventual lifting of the requirement for Covid vaccination for healthcare workers, when the HAS judges it is no longer necessary and once the requirement is lifted, the suspended healthcare workers will be reinstated “immediately”.

The bill was approved on Monday evening with 184 votes to 149, the result of a joint committee that was able to harmonise the versions of the Assembly and the Senate.

The final vote passed the Senate on Tuesday.