MAP: The départements in France with the highest death rates during the coronavirus outbreak

France has been hit hard by coronavirus, with more than 26,000 deaths directly attributed to the virus so far, but many of the deaths have been concentrated in certain areas.

MAP: The départements in France with the highest death rates during the coronavirus outbreak
Photo: AFP

French national statistics body INSEE has released new data showing the excess death rate in France by département during the outbreak.

The excess death rate measures all deaths, not just those attributed to coronavirus, and compares them to deaths in the same period in preceding years.

Due to variations in the way different countries count their coronavirus cases and deaths, this is seen is one of the most reliable ways of making international comparisons.

The latest tranche of French data covers March 1st to April 20th and compares it to the same period in 2019. The numbers show how many more deaths each département recorded, compared to last year.

Départements marked 0 on the map have either the same number or fewer deaths than the same period in 2019.

READ ALSO Three reasons why Paris' northern suburbs have such a high death rate

Not all deaths are coronavirus related of course and in many places deaths have actually fallen due to factors such as a lack of road accidents or workplace accidents as people were largely confined to their homes.

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The deaths are largely confined to the eastern France and the greater Paris region.

In percentage terms, the départements with the highest rate of excess deaths are Haut-Rhin in eastern France (135  percent more than 2019) and five départements  in the Paris region; Seine-Saint-Denis (+ 130 percent),  Hauts-de-Seine (+ 122 percent), Val-de-Marne (+ 104 percent), Essonne and Val-d’Oise (+ 99 percent each).

As France begins lifting its lockdown the country has been divided into red zones and green zones, with slightly looser restrictions in the green zones, which have low rates of coronavirus infection and hospital occupancy.

READ ALSO What does it mean if you live in a red département?

The red zones. Map: Santé Publique France

Four regions are in red – Île-de-France, Grand-Est, Hauts-de-France and Bourgogne-Franche-Comté – and one département, the overseas territory of Mayotte.

In total between March 1st and April 20th, France recorded 23,225 more deaths than the same period in 2019.

The country's official coronavirus death toll to May 12th is 26,991.

The French official figures include deaths in hospitals and in care homes while countries such as Italy and Spain only count hospital deaths. The UK, while initially counting only hospital deaths, now includes care home deaths in its statistics.

READ ALSO OPINION How can we compare France's coronavirus death toll when countries play by different rules?

The French figures do not include deaths at home, although public health bodies say these will be added from June, but the similarity between the excess deaths and the official figures suggest that the French official death toll is reasonably complete.



Member comments

  1. what i miss are the total mortality figures! 23,000 seems like a lot but I can’t compare it to anything.And it should at least include the mortality rates from the past five years. I can imagine that there are deviations upwards as well as downwards every year. And how big are those deviations?

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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 50,000 a week, and have been since the beginning of June – 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 57 percent on the previous week.

Hospital admissions are also on the rise – standing at 707 admissions on Friday, June 24th compared to 400 daily admissions just two weeks earlier.

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


The government’s Covid vaccine adviser Alain Fischer told France Info that he was in favour of making face masks compulsory on public transport again and said it is ‘being discussed” at government level.

At present masks are not required, but are recommended, especially on busy services where it is impossible to practice social distancing.

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.”

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.