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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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HEALTH

Experts warn of high levels of flu in France this winter

Experts have warned of a particularly bad flu epidemic this winter in France due to a combination of lowered immune systems and 'vaccine apathy' - urging high-risk groups to get their shot as soon as the flu vaccination campaign begins in October.

Experts warn of high levels of flu in France this winter

France’s annual flu vaccine campaign will officially get under way on October 18th this year – and medical experts have warned that this year’s season may be a bad one amid fears of “vaccine apathy”.

When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters in France this autumn

Immunologist Alain Fischer, who chaired France’s Conseil d’orientation de la stratégie vaccinale throughout the Covid-19 pandemic said that the high number of flu cases in Australia and the southern hemisphere in its winter were “a warning sign” that this winter’s flu, coupled with rising cases of Covid-19, could lead to a sharp rise in hospitalisations again in the winter.

“For two years, influenza has been kept at bay, thanks to the barrier measures we have put in place against Covid,” he told Le Parisien. 

“This year, it will be difficult to maintain the same level of protection: masks, distancing, intensive hand washing … Faced with this relaxation, there is a serious risk of flu epidemic.”

Between two million and six million people contract flu every winter in France. The infection is responsible for between 4,000 and 6,000 deaths every year, usually among people aged 65 and over. But in ‘bad’ flu years, that mortality figure can rise rapidly.

READ ALSO When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters this autumn in France

The country, meanwhile, is at the start of what is being described as an “eighth wave” of Covid, and the Haute Autorité de santé recommends the eligible, vulnerable people ensure they are vaccinated against both viruses as early as possible. “A Covid-flu cohabitation is not a good thing,”  Fischer said. “It is synonymous with a very high number of hospitalisations. 

“Hence the objective of two strong vaccination campaigns – Covid and flu – especially for the most vulnerable.”

“The double injection is very good, and practical for patients. But I think that we should not wait, especially vulnerable people. It is a mistake to think that you will get your Covid booster when the flu vaccine is here – the Covid jab should not be delayed.”

Currently less than 40 percent of people eligible for a fourth Covid vaccine have received their latest dose.

Dual-strain Covid-19 vaccines designed to combat both delta and omicron variants will be available in France from October 3rd.

READ ALSO France approves new vaccines for Covid Omicron sub-variants

“It is quite possible to get your Covid injection in early October and flu vaccine in late October – you will need both anyway,” Fischer said.

The Haute Autorité de Santé recommends influenza vaccination for the following groups:

  • people aged 65 and over; 
  • people with chronic diseases; 
  • pregnant women;
  • people suffering from obesity (BMI equal to or greater than 40 kg/m 2 );
  • Infants under 6 months at risk of serious influenza;
  • Families and others close to immunocompromised people; 
  • home help workers caring for vulnerable individuals.

For anyone in these groups, the flu vaccine is 100 percent covered by health insurance and delivered free of charge to the pharmacy, on presentation of a voucher.

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