Although the death rates for Covid-19 cases remain low in France – 15 people died in hospital over the last 24 hours – politicians and health experts have become increasingly worried about the steady rise in new cases.
The country has greatly expanded its testing programme in recent weeks, but experts say that more testing alone cannot account for the rise, which has seen more than 1,000 new cases reported for several days.
After a meeting of the country's Defence Council, prime minister Jean Castex unveiled a series of measures.
Speaking on a visit to the CHU hospital in Montpellier, he announced that he would be asking each local authority to draw up its own plan for increasing restrictions on daily life should it become necessary.
“Every Préfet must develop a targeted plan in their département,” Castex said.
These local plans would include all the measures taken to limit the spread of the virus, the PM said. He listed “preventive health rules, mask-wearing, mandatory declarations of all gatherings of more than 10 people, controls of mask-wearing in enclosed spaces” as points that needed to be included in these plans.
He has previously said that France will not repeat its strict nationwide lockdown, but could bring in local lockdowns if necessary in places where the situation was getting out of control.
He also announced
- The ban on gatherings of more than 5,000 people will be extended until October 30th
- Policing will be stepped up to enforce rules already in place around social distancing, mask-wearing and gatherings of more than 10 people
- Bars and cafés could face temporary closure if their customers repeatedly fail to respect distancing rules
- The rule on wearing masks in the street could become nationwide as the PM urged local authorities to follow the example of the 330 communes – including Paris – that already have such rules in place.
- A further extension of testing facilities with easier access
“The number of hospitalisations and intensive care admissions are on the rise. Twenty-five new clusters are identified every day, against around five per day three weeks ago. All of this is worrying,” Castex said.
“If we do not react collectively, there’s a high risk that the epidemic will resume in a way that will be difficult to control.
“Avoiding going backwards, a major return to lockdown measures, it's essential and it's within our reach. We need to be focused and pull ourselves together.”
France's health ministry said on Monday that 10,800 new coronavirus cases had been identified in the past week, and warned that “circulation of the virus is intensifying, notably among young people and in certain regions such as the metropolitan areas of Paris and Marseille.”
It said mask wearing was “a gesture of common sense” in crowded places and when a safe physical distance between people cannot be observed.
“Adolescents and young adults, less at risk of developing serious forms of the disease, can contribute to spreading it and infecting their loved ones – parents, grandparents and other vulnerable people for whom the consequences could be serious,” the ministry said.