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HEALTH

France’s reported new coronavirus cases hit one-month peak

France on Wednesday reported 1,392 new coronavirus cases, the highest daily tally in a month, continuing a by now week-long trend of steady increase in the number of new cases.

France's reported new coronavirus cases hit one-month peak
French health minister Olivier Véran has warned against complacency. Photo: AFP

On Wednesday evening, the national health agency called for the population to remain vigilant and continue to wear protective face masks even as a scorching heat of up to 40C was set to hit the country the following day.

READ ALSO: French urged to keep masks on outside as temperatures set to hit 40C

Health minister Olivier Véran said France was not in the throes of a second wave of coronavirus infection despite a recent rise in cases, but urged the public to behave responsibly to prevent a new surge.

 
Véran acknowledged “warnings signs”, but added these were partly due to ramped-up testing.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had warned on Tuesday of a “second wave” in Europe after a controversial decision to quarantine all travellers arriving from Spain, a move London has not ruled out applying to other countries.

READ ALSO ANALYSIS Is France heading for a second wave of Covid infections?

 

“We are not in a second wave of the coronavirus, we are in the wake of an epidemic – more or less at a lower level – depending on the regions and cities concerned,” Véran told LCI television.

“Clusters are emerging, we have warning signs from certain hospitals that have seen a trend of increasing admission,” he said, adding: “We are testing a lot more.”

With the holiday season in full swing in France, night-time curfews were ordered this week for beaches in the Brittany resort of Quiberon on the Atlantic coast after a fast-spreading Covid-19 cluster emerged.

MAP Which areas of France are 'of concern' to health authorities as Covid-19 cases rise?

Véran noted people felt the need to relax after the lockdown imposed to combat the virus but warned this was not the moment to let their guard down.

“It is through our collective behaviour and the determined action of the authorities that we will avoid this second wave,” he said, reaffirming the urgent need for a vaccine.

After images posted on social media of people enjoying densely-packed outdoor parties across France unsettled authorities, Véran said: “There are people who don't play by the rules. It's when you feel invincible that you take the most risks.”

Britain had initially imposed a blanket quarantine on all travellers returning from abroad, but France – a hugely popular holiday destination for Britons – is now on a list of countries enjoying an exemption.

READ ALSO Could travellers from France be the next to face a UK quarantine?

France registered 725 new infections and 14 deaths in 24 hours Tuesday, and an accumulated death toll of 30,223, according to official figures.

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POLITICS

‘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. 

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