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HEALTH

IN NUMBERS: What is the coronavirus situation in France now?

France has accelerated the lifting of its lockdown restrictions, saying that the latest health data is positive.

IN NUMBERS: What is the coronavirus situation in France now?
Strict hygiene rules seem, for the moment, to be keeping Covid-19 numbers under control in France. Photo: AFP

When France first began listing its strict nationwide lockdown on May 11th, all eyes were nervously focused on the latest coronavirus data as we waited to see if lifting restrictions would provoke a spike in cases.

One month on and not only does there not seem to have been a spike, but phase 3 of lifting restrictions has been accelerated, with the whole country now designated a green zone and schools to reopen fully from June 22nd.

So what does the latest data from public health agency Santé Publique France tell us about the progress of the virus?

29

Number of Covid-19 deaths recorded in the 24 hours to June 16th.

9

Number of Covid-19 deaths recorded on June 14th. This was the first time that hospital deaths in France had hit single figures since March, but this was a Sunday and numbers tend to dip over the weekend, probably due to reporting issues.

152

New cases confirmed in the 24 hours to June 16th.

29,436

Total number of Covid-19 deaths recorded in France since the start of the outbreak

846

Number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care. This is a key number to watch as it gives an insight into the likely progression of the epidemic over the next weeks. At its peak, France had more than 7,000 patients in intensive care, putting massive strain on the health system, but this number has been steadily dropping for four weeks

10,384

Deaths in the country's Ehpad nursing homes. These have been badly hit by the virus as patients are elderly and fragile and deaths in these nursing homes make up roughly a third of all deaths in France.

 

34

Deaths in care homes last week. After problems with accurate daily data on care home deaths that lead to some days a negative death rate being recorded to correct earlier reporting, deaths in care home are now reported weekly. In the week leading up to June 9th, 34 Covid-19 deaths were recorded.

98

Coronavirus clusters. As France has, somewhat belatedly, rolled out a fuller testing programme it is able to identify early new outbreaks of the virus. A cluster is defined as 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. Health chiefs say the test and trace programme will be crucial in avoiding more widespread outbreaks.

73,044

Hospitalised Covid-19 patients who have returned home.

 

27,701

Excess deaths from all causes in France in March and April compared to the same period in 2019. As countries have wildly different recording methods for coronavirus deaths, many experts are now looking at excess deaths as a more reliable indicator as they show how many more people died in 2020 compared to previous years.

France's official Covid-19 death toll for March and April was 24,376 suggesting that the French counting methods for Covid-19 are reasonably accurate (by contrast the UK's official Covid-19 death toll is 41,736 compared to an excess death toll of 63,629 for the period March 27th to May 29th).

3%

In May, there were three percent fewer deaths in France from all causes than the previous year. It is suggested that the reason for this is that Covid-19 deaths had fallen off sharply by that point, while the lockdown meant that there were fewer deaths from other causes such as road accidents and accidents at work.

2

French regions saw excess deaths of more than 50 percent during the epidemic. The two worst affected regions were the greater Paris Île-de-France region which recorded 11,400 more deaths than usual (up 80 percent) and Grand Est, where the epidemic began, which recorded 4,760 (up 56 percent).

No other regions recorded more than a 50 percent rise and some saw very small increases or none at all, suggesting that the strict nationwide lockdown did manage to contain the spread of the virus.

 

READ ALSO Why Paris' northern suburbs have had such a high coronavirus death rate

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HEALTH

Carte vitale: France to adopt a new ‘biometric’ health card

The French parliament has approved a €20 million project to launch a 'biometric' version of the carte vitale health insurance card.

Carte vitale: France to adopt a new 'biometric' health card

As part of the French government’s package of financial aid for the cost-of-living crisis, €20 million will be set set aside to launch a biometric health card, after an amendment proposed by senators was approved.

Right-wing senators made this measure a “condition” of their support for the financial aid package, according to French left-wing daily Libération, and on Thursday the measure was approved by the Assemblée nationale.

While it sounds quite high tech, the idea is relatively simple, according to centre-right MP Thibault Bazin: the carte vitale would be equipped with a chip that “contains physical characteristics of the insured, such as their fingerprints” which would allow healthcare providers to identify them.

The carte vitale is the card that allows anyone registered in the French health system to be reimbursed for medical costs such as doctor’s appointments, medical procedures and prescriptions. The card is linked to the patient’s bank account so that costs are reimbursed directly into the bank account, usually within a couple of days.

READ ALSO How a carte vitale works and how to get one

According to the centre-right Les Républicains group, the reason for having a ‘biometric’ carte vitale is to fight against welfare fraud.

They say this would have two functions; firstly the biometric data would ensure the card could only be used by the holder, and secondly the chip would allow for instant deactivation if the card was lost of stolen.

Support for the biometric carte vitale has mostly been concentrated with right-wing representatives, however, opponants say that the implementation of the tool would be costly and lengthy.

It would involve replacing at least 65 million cards across France and repurposing them with biometric chips, in addition to taking fingerprints for all people concerned.

Additionally, all healthcare professionals would have to join the new system and be equipped with devices capable of reading fingerprints. 

Left-leaning representatives have also voiced concerns regarding the protection of personal data and whether plans would comply with European regulations for protecting personal data, as the creation of ‘biometric’ carte vitales would inevitably lead to the creation of a centralised biometric database. Additionally, there are concerns regarding whether this sensitive personal information could be exposed to cybercrime, as the health insurance system in France has been targeted by hackers in the past.

Finally, there is concern that the amount of financial loss represented by carte vitale fraud has been overestimated. The true figures are difficult to establish, but fraud related to carte vitale use is only a small part of general welfare fraud, which also covers unemployment benefits and other government subsidy schemes.

The scheme is set to begin in the autumn, but there us no information on how this will be done, and whether the biometric chip will just be added to new cards, or whether existing cards will be replaced with new ones. 

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