France records 6th consecutive daily fall in coronavirus intensive care patients

France has for the sixth day in a row seen a fall in the number of coronavirus patients in intensive care but the pandemic "remains very active" said the country's health chief.

France records 6th consecutive daily fall in coronavirus intensive care patients
Photo: AFP

France's Director General of Health Jérôme Salomon confirmed that the country “has seen a plateau for several days now, but the pandemic remains very active”.

In his daily briefing, Salomon revealed that 541 deaths in hospital have been recorded in the last 24 hours. 

The figures were up from the 335 and 315 recorded over the previous two days, but followed a pattern seen in recent weeks of lower figures reported at the weekend followed by a spike on Monday. Easter Monday is a public holiday in France.

Daily figures were not available for deaths in care homes, but the total number of hospital deaths now stands at 10,129 while deaths recorded in care homes stand at 5,600, taking the overall figure to 15,729.

France is one of the few countries in Europe to include deaths in care homes in its official statistics, Spain, Italy and England only count deaths in hospital in their official coronavirus death tolls.

Once again, the total number of patients in intensive care fell, down 91 from the previous day marking the sixth consecutive fall. Experts say this figure is crucial as it provides an indicator for the days to come.

It is against this background of a plateau in the number of deaths and steadily falling intensive care rates that France has begun to talk about lifting its strict lockdown rules.

President Emmanuel Macron on Monday night told the nation that lockdown will be extended until May 11th.

But he also laid out a roadmap for the gradual reopening of schools and businesses, if the health situation continues to improve and people continue to obey the lockdown rules.

READ ALSO France's coronavirus lockdown – what happens next?




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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.