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HEALTH

No return to lockdown in France, even if there is a second wave, says head of Scientific Council

France will not impose another general lockdown of the country, even if there is a second wave of Covid-19 cases in autumn, says the head of the Scientific Council who insisted the virus was "under control" in France.

No return to lockdown in France, even if there is a second wave, says head of Scientific Council
Jean-François Delfraissy, president of France's Scientific Council. Photo: AFP

Jean-François Delfraissy, president of the Scientific Council convened by the French government to advise on coronavirus-related measures, has laid out a strategy for the months ahead.

The Scientific Council's role is advisory, but throughout the crisis they have been closely consulted by the government on health measures to contain and control the spread of the virus, including the strict nationwide lockdown brought in on March 17th.

Delfraissy, 72, a doctor and immunology specialist, gave an interview to French newspaper Le Parisien in which he laid out the four possible scenarios that the government faces over the rest of 2020. He was speaking as on Thursday the Council published its seventh consultation paper.

READ ALSO What changes as France moves into phase 2 of lockdown?

The Scientific Council has advised the government throughout the epidemic. Photo: AFP

The four scenarios are; the virus goes away or stays at very low levels, a second critical cluster appears like the one in Mulhouse at the start of the epidemic, a slow deterioration of the general situation in autumn with more hospitalisations and finally the worst case scenario – the return to a critical situation of infections and hospital pressure.

But even in the worst scenario, the country would not return to a generalised nationwide lockdown, he said.

He told Le Parisien: “The Scientific Council, what we are saying is: whatever happens, we will not be able to redo a generalised lockdown in France.

“The first time, it was essential, we had no choice, but the price we have to pay is too high.

“The population would certainly not accept it, the economic consequences would be major and, even from a health point of view, this is not desirable – do not forget that, apart from Covid, there were all the other patients who had delays in diagnosis during this period.”

He added, however, that some areas could see the return of lockdown measures if they show a 'cluster' of cases, saying: ” I am firmly convinced that if it starts up again, it will start up again in the Paris region.” 

He cautioned that the virus has not gone away, and that people need to remain cautious and follow health precautions, but he said it is for the present under control, thanks to the testing and tracing strategy now in place.

He said: “Today, there are between 1,000 and 3,000 new infections per day in France, compared to 70,000 to 100,000 at the beginning of March.
 
“This is due to the containment and the very strong cluster identification strategy, but also to the virus itself.
 
“It is visibly less likely to circulate when temperatures rise. Barring exceptional events, the situation is under control for the next few weeks and even the summer months.”
 
 
A military hospital was set up in Mulhouse, one of the earliest epicentres of the epidemic. Photo: AFP
 
At the beginning of the outbreak France suffered one of the highest levels of infections and deaths in Europe, although the strict nationwide lockdown brought case numbers down and France's death toll now stands at 29,065, below that of the UK and Italy.
 
Many of the earliest cases centred around a 'cluster' in Mulhouse in eastern France, where thousands of people from all over the country attended a church event.
 
Delfraissy admitted that France had been too slow with its testing programme, saying: “Since the release of the lockdown, we have sufficient means to identify the outbreaks of infection.
 
“That's what we didn't do in February, let's face it! That was Germany's strategy. We could have had the same evolution of the epidemic. But there was the great evangelical rally in Mulhouse, which spread the virus throughout the country, and there was a lack of tests.
 
“At the beginning of March, we were doing about 4,000 tests a day, whereas the Germans were already at about 70,000. Now we have caught up and are at the same level as them, at last!”
 
France is now operating a test and trace strategy, where everyone who tests positive gives a list of their contacts to health authorities, and those people are then contacted and tested.
 
After some delays, it has also now rolled out its coronavirus tracing app, intended to alert people to casual contact with a person who later tests positive, such as fellow Metro passengers or café customers.
 
 
Although there is a lack of scientific consensus, many believe that the virus will recede during the summer months, but that raises fears of a 'second wave' of cases in the autumn.
 
Delfaissy said: “If we look at the history of major pandemics of respiratory viruses, we see that eight out of ten regress spontaneously in European countries during the summer.
 
“On the other hand, you have five out of ten that recur in the autumn.
 
“We must remain extremely vigilant.”

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LIVING IN FRANCE

Life in France: 5 plants that (allegedly) repel mosquitoes

Summer in France brings lots of good stuff and some deeply annoying things, like mosquitoes. But did you know that there are plants that you can add to your garden or balcony that will repel these deeply unwelcome visitors?

Life in France: 5 plants that (allegedly) repel mosquitoes

If you’re one of these people who are attractive to mosquitoes then you’ll know the misery of spending the summer covered in itchy red lumps – and the bad news is that the rising global temperatures mean that ‘mosquito season’ in France now lasts longer.

It’s a common problem and in the summer French florists and garden centres often sell ‘anti-moustique‘ plants.

We’re not promising a 100 percent repellent rate, but these are some plants that apparently help.

In good news, most of them are small enough so that you can grow them on your balcony or in a window box if you don’t have a garden.  

Mint (menthe)

A common herb that many people might already have in their gardens, but mosquitoes apparently hate the lovely, fresh scent of mint.

And even if it fails to ward off the bugs, at least you can use the leaves to garnish food or make a nice big jug of Pimms (which might distract you from your horrible, itchy bites).

READ MORE: France’s most toxic plants and berries to watch out for

Marigolds (Rose d’inde, sometimes known as Souci)

These are a popular choice to add a touch of colour to a window box or balcony, as well as to a garden, and have the added benefit of warding off mosquitoes.

Gardeners like them because can boost the growth of other plants when planted together.

Rosemary (romarain)

Another aromatic herb that humans love and mosquitoes apparently hate.

If you’re planting it in the garden use a container because it has a tendency to spread and take over your garden. If you don’t want to grown it, or don’t have the space, you can always add a couple of sprigs to your grill when barbecuing to help keep the mosquitoes away as you dine outdoors.

Lemongrass (citronelle)

You’ll certainly be aware of citronella scent from various mosquito-repelling products including oils and candles, but you can also grow it in the your garden.

It grows quite big so might not be suitable for small gardens or window boxes.

Even if it doesn’t succeed in keeping insets away, you can use it in cooking to add a lemony flavour.

Wormwood (absinthe)

The final one on the list is usually said to be the most effective, but should be used with caution as it is toxic if eaten.

You can grow it in your garden or in a window box, but take great care that it doesn’t end up with your edible herbs as it will make you sick – if you have a garden when children or animals are present then it’s probably best to avoid this one altogether, but on the plus side its pungent scent will keep mosquitoes away.

As the French name suggests, wormwood is one of the main ingredients in the drink Absinthe and is what gives it the distinctive green colour.

Legend has it that wormwood is the active ingredient that makes people hallucinate after drinking absinthe, but in fact the drink is not hallucinogenic and never was. It is extremely strong though, which might explain some of those ‘visions’!

Other tips

Mosquitoes like to hang out and to breed in water or long grass, so you can help keep them away by eliminating their favourite spots. For example;

  • Keep lawns trimmed
  • Eliminate sources of stagnant water eg old plant pots that collect rainwater
  • Keep your gutters clear
  • If you have a pond consider installing a small fountain or pump, as mosquitoes usually won’t lay eggs in moving water
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