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HEALTH

‘Clearly worsening’ – France sees most new daily coronavirus cases since May

More than 2,500 new coronavirus cases were registered in France in 24 hours in the sharpest increase since May, government data showed on Wednesday, as officials said indicators were "clearly worsening".

'Clearly worsening' - France sees most new daily coronavirus cases since May
Photo: AFP

“Indicators used for tracking the epidemic on French territory have clearly worsened in recent days,” the health ministry's DGS public health division said in a statement.

Of 600,000 tests over the past week more than 11,600 were positive, according to the DGS.

This represented an increase of the rate of weekly positives from 1.6 percent last week to 2.2 this week, which the DGS said confirmed an “increased viral circulation.”

 

Health officials identified 18 new virus clusters in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number  to 896 nationwide.

The number of patients in intensive care dropped slightly to 379, a level relatively steady since late July.

There were 18 new deaths from the virus, bringing the total to 30,371.

IN NUMBERS: How worried should we be about the rise of Covid-19 cases in France?

France has seen confirmed cases rising the last three weeks and health authorities have raised concerns about high levels of clusters in several areas of France.

Health authorities say the spike in cases these weeks was not solely due to the ramping up of national testing capacity over the past months, from around 200,000-230,000 tests a week over the course of June, to around 400,000 tests per week in July, up to the current 600,000.

Health Minister Olivier Veran said the hike in new cases could “partly” be explained by the increased testing.

“We are conducting 100,000 more tests each week, compared to the previous week,” he told France 2 on Wednesday evening.

“I am saying only partly because the positivity rate of tests is increasing. There was 1 percent positive tests a few weeks ago, today we have exceeded 2 percent, so it's not just the increase in the number of tests that explains it,” the health minister said.

INTERVIEW: What's really behind the rising coronavirus rates in France?

French prime minister Jean Castex on Tuesday announced extra health measures to try and contain the spread.

August is a month when many French people take weeks of summer holiday, and the DGS said “it's imperative that we keep up our efforts to avoid the epidemic picking up again, individually and collectively, everywhere and at all times.”

Almost 30,400 people have died of coronavirus in France since the epidemic began, the third-heaviest toll in Europe after Britain and Italy.

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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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