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HEALTH

‘The virus has not gone on holiday’ warns French prime minister

Prime Minister Jean Castex on Monday urged France "not to let down its guard" in the fight against the coronavirus in order to prevent the need for a new national lockdown, as concern grows over a recent surge in cases.

'The virus has not gone on holiday' warns French prime minister
Prime minister Jean Castex visiting Lille. Photo: AFP

“The virus has not gone on holiday and neither have we,” the premier said on a visit to the northeastern city of Lille. “We need to protect ourselves against this virus, without putting a stop to our economic and social life, in other words avoiding the risk of a new generalised lockdown.” 

France, which has registered over 30,000 deaths from the Covid-19 epidemic, recorded thousands of new cases last week prompting some regions to reimpose local restrictions.

“We are seeing an increase in the figures for the epidemic which should make us more attentive than ever, and this is the case,” Castex said.

“I call on every French person to remain very vigilant. The fight against the virus depends of course on the state, local communities, institutions, but also on each of us,” he added.

The city of Lille, a bustling hub close to the Belgian border, has been the subject of particular concern with the prevalence of the virus doubling to 38 people per 100,000 people over the last two weeks.

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

 

In parts of the city it is now obligatory to wear masks outside to limit the contagion, a move that local authorities can impose if necessary.

Authorities in dozens of towns across France have brought in their own mask rules, including popular summer tourist destinations such as Biarritz, Saint-Malo, Le Touquet, La Rochelle and Deauville.

MAP Where in France is it compulsory to wear a mask in the street?

The French government has been determined to encourage citizens to go on holiday this year, especially within the country, in the hope of giving some help to an economy that contracted by a whopping 13.8 percent in the second quarter.

But officials are keenly aware that the opening up brings risks.

There has been much criticism of young people pictured partying in holiday resorts without masks, although the latest government data shows that workplaces are the primary site for Covid-19 clusters.

Member comments

  1. “The French government has been determined to encourage citizens to go on holiday this year, especially within the country”
    Could this be the reason why we are now seeing outbreaks in areas that didn’t have it before, surely not! I’m sure the PM knows what he is doing. LOL

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HEALTH

Where in France are there concerns about pesticides in drinking water

An investigation has revealed that tap water supplied to some 12 million people in France was sometimes contaminated with high levels of pesticides last year.

Where in France are there concerns about pesticides in drinking water

Data from regional health agencies, and collated by Le Monde, found that supplies to about 20 percent of the population, up from 5.9 percent the year previously, failed to consistently meet regional quality standards. 

The study highlighted regional differences in tap water quality. Hauts-de-France water was the most likely to be affected, with 65 percent of the population there drinking water contaminated by unacceptable pesticide levels. In Brittany, that level fell to 43 percent; 25.5 percent in the Grand-Est, and 25 percent in the Pays de la Loire.

Occitanie, in southwest France, meanwhile, showed the lowest level of non-compliance with standards, with just 5.1 percent of the region’s population affected by high pesticide levels in their tap water. However, figures show that 71 percent of people in one département in the region, Gers, were supplied with water containing high levels of pesticides.

Regional discrepancies in testing, including what chemicals are tested for, mean that results and standards are not uniform across France. Tap water in Haute-Corse is tested for 24 pesticide molecules; in Hauts-de-Seine, that figure rises to 477. 

One reason for regional testing standards are differences in local agricultural requirements.

Part of the increase in the year-on-year number of households supplied with affected water may also be explained by the fact that tests in many regions now seek to trace more molecules, Le Monde noted.

Water quality standards in France are strict – with a limit for pesticide residues set at 0.1 microgramme per litre, so the “high” levels found in tap water supplies may not represent a danger to health.

The question of the level of health risk to humans, therefore, remains unclear. The Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l’alimentation, de l’environnement et du travail (Anses) has not defined a maximum safety level for 23 pesticides or their metabolites. Le Monde cites two metabolites of chloridazone, a herbicide used until 2020 on beet fields, for which only provisional safety levels in tap water have been set. 

Many of these molecules and their long-term effects remain unknown – and “the long-term health effects of exposure to low doses of pesticides are difficult to assess,” admits the Ministry of Health.

Michel Laforcade, former director general of the ARS Nouvelle-Aquitaine told Le Monde that health authorities have “failed” on this subject. 

“One day, we will have to give an account,” he said. “It may not be on the same scale as the contaminated blood affair, but it could become the next public health scandal.”

In December 2020, the Direction générale de la santé (DGS) recommended “restricting uses of water” as soon as the 0.1 micrograms per litre quality threshold is exceeded, in cases of residues for which there is no formal maximum health value.

But this principle is not always applied, according to France 2’s Complètement d’enquête programme.

In December 2021, the DGS asked the Haut conseil de la santé publique (HCSP) “for support on the management of health risks associated with the presence of pesticides and pesticide metabolites in water intended for human consumption.”

The HCSP, in response, said that “an active and urgent policy must be implemented to reduce the contamination of resources by pesticides”.

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