France identifies 150 coronavirus clusters, many in health centres and hospitals

France has identified 150 coronavirus clusters, many of them in health centres, officials have reported.

France identifies 150 coronavirus clusters, many in health centres and hospitals
Photo: AFP

Since France began to ease its strict nationwide lockdown on May 11th, health authorities have focused their efforts on a 'test and trace' strategy to identify early new outbreaks of the illness.

The latest data from Santé Publique France shows that up to June 3rd 150 Covid-19 clusters have been identified – 142 in mainland France and eight in its overseas territories.

READ ALSO How France's coronavirus test and trace programme works

A cluster is defined by the health body as at least three confirmed or probable cases within a period of seven days occurring in the same community or in people who had participated in the same event or gathering.

Of the 150 clusters, 66 percent have five or more cases.

Health bodies have previously said that reports of clusters are proof that the test and trace strategy is working and outbreaks are being identified early and prevented from spreading further.

On Friday the president of the government's advisory Scientific Council said the test and trace programme should be enough to avoid another nationwide lockdown.

Jean-François Delfraissy, immunology specialist and president of the advisory Scientific Council. Photo: AFP

Jean-François Delfraissy told French newspaper Le Parisien: “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!”  

As the Scientific Council released its seventh report, he said that the country would not return to a second nationwide lockdown, even if there is a second wave in the autumn, although there could be localised restrictions in the event of large clusters or outbreaks.

He added: “I am firmly convinced that if it starts up again, it will start up again in the Paris region.” 

Of the 150 clusters identified so far the largest group – 27 percent – have been in health establishments such as hospitals and health centres.

People in social accommodation accounted for 17 percent of clusters and workplaces also accounted for 17 percent.

The other groups where clusters were identified were institutions for the disabled (8 percent), vulnerable communities such as travellers and migrants (6 percent), family homes and extended families (6 percent), schools, universities and prisons (3 percent) and social gatherings and crèches (1 percent). There have been no clusters linked to public transport so far. 

As well as the test and trace programme, France has launched a coronavirus tracing app that is intended to supplement the programme by tracking casual contacts such as fellow travellers on public transport or customers in a café. Use of the app is voluntary and so far around 1 million people have downloaded it.


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‘Public opinion is ready’ – These French senators want to legalise marijuana

A group of 31 French senators of the Socialist, Green and Republican parties have come together to write a statement calling for the legalisation of marijuana in France.

'Public opinion is ready' - These French senators want to legalise marijuana

France is known for having some of the strictest laws regarding marijuana consumption in Europe – while simultaneously maintaining one of the highest rates of cannabis usage in the EU. 

A group of French senators – coming from the Socialist, Green and centre-right Les Républicains parties – are trying to change those laws, and have come together to call for marijuana to be legalised in France.

The group of 31 co-signed a statement published in French newspaper, Le Monde, on Wednesday, August 10th.

In the statement, the senators promised to launch a ‘consultation process’ to submit a bill to legalise marijuana “in the coming months.”

The proposition was headed by Senator Gilbert-Luc Devinaz, a member of the Socialist Party, and gained support from the party’s leader, Patrick Kanner.

READ MORE: The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

A report by the Assemblé Nationale, which was published in May 2021, estimated that nearly 18 million French people (more than 25 percent of the population) had already consumed marijuana, and that an additional 1.5 million consume it regularly.

This, coupled with the 2019 finding that nearly one in two French people (45 percent) said they were in favour of legalisation, according to a survey by the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), helped strengthen the senators’ position.

“Public opinion is ready, the legislature must act,” they wrote.

Their senators argue that legalising marijuana in France will allow the authorities to better protect French citizens, saying that legalising would not require “minimising the health impacts of cannabis consumption” but rather would allow regulation similar to “public policies for tobacco, alcohol or gambling.”

For the group of 31 senators, the benefits of legalisation would involve a better control over the “health quality of products consumed,” “curbing trafficking in disadvantaged areas,” developing large-scale prevention plans,” and finally the taxation of cannabis products and redirection of law enforcement resources. Decriminalisation – in their opinion – would not be sufficient as this would simply “deprive authorities the ability to act,” in contrast to legalisation. 

READ MORE: Is France moving towards legalising cannabis for recreational purposes?

“In the long term, new tax revenues would be generated from the cannabis trade and from savings in the justice and police sectors”, which would make it possible to mobilize “significant resources for prevention as well as for rehabilitation and economic development,” wrote the senators.

In France, the conversation around cannabis has evolved in recent years – former Health Minister (and current government spokesman) Olivier Véran said to France Bleu in September 2021 that “countries that have gone towards legalisation have results better than those of France in the last ten years,” adding that he was interested in the potential therapeutic use of cannabis.

Currently, the drug is illegal in France. Previously, it fell under a 1970-law of illicit drug use, making it punishable with up to a year prison and an up to €3,750 fine.

However, in 2020, the government softened the penalties, making it possible for those caught consuming it to opt for an on-the-spot fine of €200.

There is also an ongoing trial involving 3,000 patients to test the impacts of medical marijuana usage, particularly with regard to pain relief.