When French Prime Minister Jean Castex on Friday declared that the government added another 12 departements to the list of “red” zones signalling an alarming coronavirus spread, he only asked local authorities in three specific areas to present extra measures to slow down the virus.
Local authorities in charge of the cities of Bordeaux and Marseille, as well as the overseas territory Guadeloupe, were to hand in their suggestions “by Monday,” the PM said.
Bordeaux announced new limits on the size of gatherings and cancelled all student parties. Authorities also called on people to limit family events.
But why, when there are 42 red zones across the country and the capital Paris has seen a huge rise in infections, only three specific French are a worry the government?
The pressure on hospital beds has been growing in Bordeaux, a city that was largely spared in the first wave of the virus.
“We are witnessing a worrying evolution of infections as well as an hospitalisation rate already high,” said Jean Castex on Friday explaining why Bordeaux, Marseille and Guadeloupe were especially targeted.
Last week, 147 new hospitalisations were counted in Bordeaux, compared to 82 the week before.
Meanwhile, the number of patients hospitalised in the south western Nouvelle-Aquitaine region has doubled in 10 days. Some two thirds of the area's intensive care patients are being treated in the city's hospitals.
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In the Gironde département (where Bordeaux is located), the infection is up to 172, meaning that on average 172 people per 100,000 were infected over the last seven days. The average national rate is 76 per 100,000.
In the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, the positivity rate the proportion of tests that have a positive result has multiplied by 3 over the past month to 5.2 percent.
It stands at 8.4 percent in the Gironde département compared to the national average of 5.3 percent. In the actual city of Bordeaux it is even higher.
As a comparison, the rural Creuse department reports a 1.8 percent positivity rate.
A few weeks ago, the Bouche du Rhône department tried to curb the Covid-19 infections rise in closing its restaurants and bars everyday from 12.30 am to 6 am. But the virus keeps continues its relentless spread, particularly in Marseille.
Marseille’s infection rate was last week of 280 per 100,000 people and the positivity rate of tests in the Bouches-de-Rhône département (8.6 percent) is even higher than the one of the Gironde.
Regarding hospital admissions, the numbers are also worrying with 377 patients hospitalised on September 12th compared to just over 200 in early July. Earlier this month hospital doctors said the city was almost reaching its capacity in intensive care wards.
But the different representatives did not agree on new measures. The regional president Renaud Muselier wants to close all beaches and parks from 8pm, as well as forbidding marriage celebrations and limiting the number of people at funerals.
On the other side of the spectrum, Marseille’s mayor Michèle Ruborila only wants to forbid public gatherings where social distancing is not possible.
Why not Paris?
Basically Paris is being spared the extra measures because for the moment there is not the same pressure on the city's hospitals as there is in the other cities.
Intensive care wards in Paris are still fairly quiet and capacity has been greatly increased since the first wave of the virus.
The positivity rate of tests in the city stands at 7.2, so below that of Gironde and Marseille.
However rates are increasing so it is highly likely new restrictive measures could soon be enforced in Paris.