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COVID-19

France’s month-long lockdown ‘begins to bear fruit’ as death toll passes 18,000

French health chiefs said on Friday that the country's month-long tight lockdown to fight the coronavirus epidemic was "beginning to bear fruit" despite reporting over 700 more deaths in the last 24 hours.

France's month-long lockdown 'begins to bear fruit' as death toll passes 18,000

France on Friday reported 761 more deaths from COVID-19 in hospitals and nursing homes over the last 24 hours, bringing the total toll in the country from the epidemic to 18,681.

The 761 new fatalities includes 418 in hospitals around the country and 343 in elderly nursing homes.

But top health official Jerome Salomon told reporters that in more positive news the total numbers in hospital (31, 190 as of Friday) fell for the third day in a row — with 115 fewer patients.

“It's a slow but steady drop,” said Salomon.

“The first wave was very much alleviated by all the French people, by respecting physical and social distancing measures, by respecting confinement and 'barrier measures',” said Salomon.

“We have strongly broken the epidemic which at the beginning was very contagious, with a virus that was being transmitted to a very large number of people,” said Salomon.

But the health chief warned: “After the confinement the French will also have the responsibility to curb the risk of the virus. It will still be present in Europe.”

Importantly the numbers in intensive care fell for the ninth consecutive day with 221 fewer patients.

The country's month-long lockdown “is starting to bear fruit,” said Salomon, while urging: “We have to continue our efforts in confinement.”

Despite the positive news around hospital numbers there were still just over 6,000 coronavirus patients in intensive care on Friday night. France's intensive care capacity before the epidemic began was around 5,000 beds.

READ ALSO: How France's lockdown exit strategy compares to neighbouring Germany

Neighbouring Germany, which declared on Friday it has the virus under control, has registered far fewer COVID-19 deaths than France. But Salomon said it was too early to make comparisons between individual countries.

“There is a heterogenity in Europe that we can't explain at the moment. There are countries which are very affected — like Belgium which is worse hit than France — and Britain as well is badly hit.”

France has been in lockdown since March 17 in a bid to slow the spread of the epidemic. But President Emmanuel Macron announced this week that the lockdown could begin to be eased from May 11.

He said schools could gradually reopen then but cafes, cinemas and cultural venues would remain closed, and there could be no summer festivals until mid-July at the earliest.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and Health Minister Olivier Veran are due on Sunday to give a news conference where they are expected to outline how the lockdown can be eased.

 

 

 

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COVID-19

Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

With a sharp rise in reported cases in recent weeks, France appears to be in the middle of a new wave of Covid infections - so what measures are the government taking to control it?

Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

Recorded case numbers in France are now over 90,000 per day, with 133,000 recorded in the past 24 hours – this is a long way short of the 350,000 weekly cases recorded in January but still the highest since May and representing a steady an increase of 67 percent on the previous week.

Hospital admissions are also on the rise – up 32 percent from last week.

So what is the French government doing about it?

Since March, almost all Covid-related restrictions have been lifted in France – the health pass is no longer required for everyday activities such as visiting a bar or going to the gym and face masks are now merely advised in all indoor locations. Only hospitals and other health establishments such as nursing homes still have mandatory rules on face masks and health passes.

For international travel, fully vaccinated arrivals from most countries – including the UK, US and the whole of the EU – need only to show proof of vaccination, while unvaccinated travellers need to show proof of a recent negative Covid test – full details HERE.

Health pass

A proposed bill from the health ministry that was leaked to French media talks about re-imposing some form of pass sanitaire (health pass) to get numbers under control.

Some caveats to add here is that the document is only a proposal at this stage and the government has explicitly rules out – for the moment – reintroducing the vaccine pass. The health pass can be used to show either proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test, so it is less restrictive for the unvaccinated.

The document suggests re-introducing a health pass for travel – both to and from France – not for everyday activities like going to a café.

Testing and contact tracing

The bill also proposes extending the software involved in contact tracing and the Covid testing programme until March 2023, although this is described as a ‘precaution’.

Testing remains available on a walk-in basis at most French pharmacies and by appointment at health centres and medical labs. Tests are free for fully-vaccinated residents of France who have a carte vitale. Those are only visiting France, who are not registered in the French health system or who are not vaccinated have to pay – prices are capped at €22 for an antigen test and €54 for a PCR test.

READ ALSO How tourists in France can get a Covid test

Masks

The Minister of Health, Brigitte Bourguignon, said she is “asking the French to wear masks on public transport once again” during an interview with RTL on Monday, June 27th and the Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has also recommended this. She also recommended wearing a mask in all other enclosed crowded areas, as a “civic gesture.” However, she did not refer to the request as a government mandated obligation.

At present masks are not required, but are recommended, especially on busy services where it is impossible to practice social distancing. In recent days several public transport operators have changed their messaging from saying that masks are merely recommended to be ‘strongly recommended for the protection of everyone’.

Epidemiologist Pascal Crépey said: “In crowded trains, the risk of being in the presence of infected people is high. It would be a good idea for the population to wear the mask, to protect especially the most fragile and avoid massive infection rates.”

A recent poll for the Journal du Dimanche newspaper showed that 71 percent of people are in favour of making masks compulsory on public transport again.

Local measures

French local authorities also have the power to impose certain types of restrictions if their area has a particularly high rate of infections.

At present, none have done so, but Nice mayor Christian Estrosi has spoken in favour of possibly bringing back the vaccine pass over the summer.

Second booster shots

A second booster shot of the Covid vaccine is now available to all over 60s and anyone who has a long-term medical condition or who is otherwise at risk from Covid.

It is recommended that the government increase public messaging advising those in high risk groups to get the second booster shot. The medical regular HAS has advised combining second booster shots with the seasonal flu vaccine campaign in September and October.

France is not, at present, considering widening the campaign to the entire popular, but the EU’s vaccine commissioner Thierry Breton says that if necessary, there would be enough doses to cover the whole population.

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