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HEALTH

Coronavirus: France reports lower death toll as hospital numbers fall

France on Friday reported 389 more coronavirus deaths, a lower toll than in previous days, and also welcomed new falls in the number of patients in hospital and intensive care.

Coronavirus: France reports lower death toll as hospital numbers fall
Photo: VALERY HACHE / AFP

The deaths of 305 people in hospitals and 84 in nursing homes brought France's total toll to 22,245, top health official Jerome Salomon told reporters.

He added that there were now 561 fewer people in hospital and 183 fewer in intensive care, continuing a brighter trend seen in previous days.

READ: When will France's bars, restaurants and tourism businesses be able to reopen?

The number of coronavirus patients in intensive care has now fallen below 5,000, with 4,870 needing such treatment.

But despite the gradually improving data, Salomon said: “The circulation of the virus remains high. We must be mobilised and respect social distancing, which must become a reflex.”

President Emmanuel Macron has announced that the over month-long lockdown to battle the virus will be eased from May 11.

The details of how this so-called de-confinement will take place remain sketchy, with some schools set to reopen but establishments like cafes and restaurants staying closed.

“We must continue all our collective efforts with single aim — to arrive at the lowest level of circulation of the virus on May 11 and the lowest number of patients,” said Salomon.

“For the de-confinement to be a success we must respect the lockdown and social distancing”

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HEALTH

Where in France are there concerns about pesticides in drinking water

An investigation has revealed that tap water supplied to some 12 million people in France was sometimes contaminated with high levels of pesticides last year.

Where in France are there concerns about pesticides in drinking water

Data from regional health agencies, and collated by Le Monde, found that supplies to about 20 percent of the population, up from 5.9 percent the year previously, failed to consistently meet regional quality standards. 

The study highlighted regional differences in tap water quality. Hauts-de-France water was the most likely to be affected, with 65 percent of the population there drinking water contaminated by unacceptable pesticide levels. In Brittany, that level fell to 43 percent; 25.5 percent in the Grand-Est, and 25 percent in the Pays de la Loire.

Occitanie, in southwest France, meanwhile, showed the lowest level of non-compliance with standards, with just 5.1 percent of the region’s population affected by high pesticide levels in their tap water. However, figures show that 71 percent of people in one département in the region, Gers, were supplied with water containing high levels of pesticides.

Regional discrepancies in testing, including what chemicals are tested for, mean that results and standards are not uniform across France. Tap water in Haute-Corse is tested for 24 pesticide molecules; in Hauts-de-Seine, that figure rises to 477. 

One reason for regional testing standards are differences in local agricultural requirements.

Part of the increase in the year-on-year number of households supplied with affected water may also be explained by the fact that tests in many regions now seek to trace more molecules, Le Monde noted.

Water quality standards in France are strict – with a limit for pesticide residues set at 0.1 microgramme per litre, so the “high” levels found in tap water supplies may not represent a danger to health.

The question of the level of health risk to humans, therefore, remains unclear. The Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l’alimentation, de l’environnement et du travail (Anses) has not defined a maximum safety level for 23 pesticides or their metabolites. Le Monde cites two metabolites of chloridazone, a herbicide used until 2020 on beet fields, for which only provisional safety levels in tap water have been set. 

Many of these molecules and their long-term effects remain unknown – and “the long-term health effects of exposure to low doses of pesticides are difficult to assess,” admits the Ministry of Health.

Michel Laforcade, former director general of the ARS Nouvelle-Aquitaine told Le Monde that health authorities have “failed” on this subject. 

“One day, we will have to give an account,” he said. “It may not be on the same scale as the contaminated blood affair, but it could become the next public health scandal.”

In December 2020, the Direction générale de la santé (DGS) recommended “restricting uses of water” as soon as the 0.1 micrograms per litre quality threshold is exceeded, in cases of residues for which there is no formal maximum health value.

But this principle is not always applied, according to France 2’s Complètement d’enquête programme.

In December 2021, the DGS asked the Haut conseil de la santé publique (HCSP) “for support on the management of health risks associated with the presence of pesticides and pesticide metabolites in water intended for human consumption.”

The HCSP, in response, said that “an active and urgent policy must be implemented to reduce the contamination of resources by pesticides”.

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