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HEALTH

Covid-19 deaths in France rise for the first time since lockdown

The numbers of deaths in France of people diagnosed with Covid-19 is trending upwards for the first time since the end of its lockdown, the public health agency said Friday, warning that all coronavirus indicators were now worsening.

Covid-19 deaths in France rise for the first time since lockdown
Medical staff take care of a Covid-19 patient in an intensive care unit of Lyon Croix-Rousse hospital. Photo: AFP

While a recent surge of infections mostly affected the young, infections are also growing fast among the over-75s.

Admissions to hospital and intensive care wards are also increasing, the health agency added.

“For the first time since the lifting of the (March-May) lockdown, we are seeing an increase in Covid-19 deaths,” the agency said in its weekly update, saying 265 people had died from the virus this week compared with 129 the last.

“The intensification of the spread of the virus among the oldest age group raises fears of the continuation of hospitalisations and deaths in the weeks to come,” it warned.

The number of new infections was down slightly – by 8 percent – from the previous week. But the agency warned that this was likely an “underestimate” of infections due to saturation of testing capacity in certain regions.

There is growing concern in France about how hard it is to get a coronavirus test – especially in the Paris region – due to demand. Prime Minister Jean Castex admitted last week it had to do better.

READ ALSO: How France's 'chaotic' Covid-19 testing strategy is causing a real headache 

“Not being able to test people (who may need quarantine) may have an impact on the control of the outbreak,” said Daniel Levy-Bruhl, head of the respiratory infections unit at the agency.

 

People wearing face masks wait in line in front of a medical laboratory to get tested for Covid-19, in Paris. Photo: AFP

Health Minister Olivier Véran said Thursday that France is preparing tighter restrictions in several cities to curtail a surge in Covid-19 cases after daily infections topped 10,000 twice over the last week.

The French Riviera city of Nice, still basking in a late Mediterranean summer, on Friday announced restrictions including a maximum of 10 people allowed to gather in its parks and on its beaches.

It will be forbidden to buy or consume alcohol in public in the city after 8pm while bars can no longer open all night.

According to the latest figures, the pandemic has claimed the lives of 31,095 people in France.

Despite the alarming figures, Castex last week steered clear of announcing new nationwide restrictions, saying the French should use caution and “succeed in living with this virus”.

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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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