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COVID-19

France registers almost 10,000 new Covid-19 cases

France on Thursday registered a record of almost 10,000 new Covid-19 cases over the last 24 hours ahead of a key meeting to decide a toughening of coronavirus measures.

France registers almost 10,000 new Covid-19 cases
AFP

Officials are increasingly concerned about the high number of infections in France, even if the death toll and admissions to intensive care are way off the hights recorded in March and April.

The health ministry said 9,843 new coronavirus infections had been recorded, the highest number since large scale testing began, with 71 new clusters confirmed.

Over the last week, 48,542 new cases have been counted, out of over a million tests carried out. The proportion of tests coming in positive has now risen to 5.4 percent, compared to 4.4 percent a week ago.

Nineteen more people died after a Covid-19 infection, bringing France's total toll from the pandemic to 30,813, the ministry added.

When it comes to hospital patient numbers the figures are also on the rise again.

Some 5,096 patients were being treated in hospital for coronavirus on Thursday – a net rise of 93 on Wednesday. The number of intensive care patients also rose over a 24-hour period from 599 to 615.

French ministers and health experts will meet Friday to decide what measures are needed, with President Emmanuel Macron vowing they would give a clear idea to the public what can be expected over the next weeks.

“We need to be as transparent and clear as possible,” Macron said Thursday. “We need to be demanding and realistic without giving in to any kind of panic.”

The head of the scientific council advising the government on the pandemic, Jean-Francois Delfraissy, said Wednesday that “tough” decisions may be required at the meeting.

People at high risk because of old age or health problems including diabetes, obesity and respiratory issues may require a protective “bubble” around them.

The government may also have to become more forceful in some areas about imposing confinement measures for infected people and those they have been in touch with, he said, although this was not for now an official recommendation.

There was the danger of a “very rapid, exponential rise” in some places, Delfraissy said, singling out the French Riviera and Provence region.

Prime Minister Jean Castex is himself in a seven-day period of self-isolation, having spent part of the weekend with the boss of the Tour de France who tested positive for Covid-19.

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COVID-19

Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

With a sharp rise in reported cases in recent weeks, France appears to be in the middle of a new wave of Covid infections - so what measures are the government taking to control it?

Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

Recorded case numbers in France are now over 90,000 per day, with 133,000 recorded in the past 24 hours – this is a long way short of the 350,000 weekly cases recorded in January but still the highest since May and representing a steady an increase of 67 percent on the previous week.

Hospital admissions are also on the rise – up 32 percent from last week.

So what is the French government doing about it?

Since March, almost all Covid-related restrictions have been lifted in France – the health pass is no longer required for everyday activities such as visiting a bar or going to the gym and face masks are now merely advised in all indoor locations. Only hospitals and other health establishments such as nursing homes still have mandatory rules on face masks and health passes.

For international travel, fully vaccinated arrivals from most countries – including the UK, US and the whole of the EU – need only to show proof of vaccination, while unvaccinated travellers need to show proof of a recent negative Covid test – full details HERE.

Health pass

A proposed bill from the health ministry that was leaked to French media talks about re-imposing some form of pass sanitaire (health pass) to get numbers under control.

Some caveats to add here is that the document is only a proposal at this stage and the government has explicitly rules out – for the moment – reintroducing the vaccine pass. The health pass can be used to show either proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test, so it is less restrictive for the unvaccinated.

The document suggests re-introducing a health pass for travel – both to and from France – not for everyday activities like going to a café.

Testing and contact tracing

The bill also proposes extending the software involved in contact tracing and the Covid testing programme until March 2023, although this is described as a ‘precaution’.

Testing remains available on a walk-in basis at most French pharmacies and by appointment at health centres and medical labs. Tests are free for fully-vaccinated residents of France who have a carte vitale. Those are only visiting France, who are not registered in the French health system or who are not vaccinated have to pay – prices are capped at €22 for an antigen test and €54 for a PCR test.

READ ALSO How tourists in France can get a Covid test

Masks

The Minister of Health, Brigitte Bourguignon, said she is “asking the French to wear masks on public transport once again” during an interview with RTL on Monday, June 27th and the Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has also recommended this. She also recommended wearing a mask in all other enclosed crowded areas, as a “civic gesture.” However, she did not refer to the request as a government mandated obligation.

At present masks are not required, but are recommended, especially on busy services where it is impossible to practice social distancing. In recent days several public transport operators have changed their messaging from saying that masks are merely recommended to be ‘strongly recommended for the protection of everyone’.

Epidemiologist Pascal Crépey said: “In crowded trains, the risk of being in the presence of infected people is high. It would be a good idea for the population to wear the mask, to protect especially the most fragile and avoid massive infection rates.”

A recent poll for the Journal du Dimanche newspaper showed that 71 percent of people are in favour of making masks compulsory on public transport again.

Local measures

French local authorities also have the power to impose certain types of restrictions if their area has a particularly high rate of infections.

At present, none have done so, but Nice mayor Christian Estrosi has spoken in favour of possibly bringing back the vaccine pass over the summer.

Second booster shots

A second booster shot of the Covid vaccine is now available to all over 60s and anyone who has a long-term medical condition or who is otherwise at risk from Covid.

It is recommended that the government increase public messaging advising those in high risk groups to get the second booster shot. The medical regular HAS has advised combining second booster shots with the seasonal flu vaccine campaign in September and October.

France is not, at present, considering widening the campaign to the entire popular, but the EU’s vaccine commissioner Thierry Breton says that if necessary, there would be enough doses to cover the whole population.

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