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HEALTH

France reports 81 Covid-19 deaths as situation worsens in Paris

France on Monday confirmed 81 new Covid-19 deaths in the country's hospitals over the last 24 hours, while new figures suggested the situation in Paris was deteriorating meaning the capital could be heading towards tighter restrictions in the near future.

France reports 81 Covid-19 deaths as situation worsens in Paris
Hospitals across France have reported an increase in new Covid-19 patients the past few weeks. Photo: AFP

France's Covid-19 hospital numbers continued to increase on Monday – although figures are often higher on Mondays as some cases are under-reported over the weekend – as public health agency Santé Public France confirmed 4,069 new Covid-19 patients in one day.

Of these, 137 were patients ill enough to be admitted into intensive care units.

In total, France's hospitals in Monday counted 6,397 patients, of which 1,558 were in intensive care units. 

While representing a large increase since this summer, the numbers were low compared to the over 32,000 hospital patients registered at the height of the pandemic in mid April.

IN NUMBERS: Covid-19 deaths, cases and hospital patients in France

 

But authorities remain wary of the past few weeks' rapid rise, especially in hotspot areas such as Paris and the other 11 “high risk” cities.

In the southern port city of Marseille, the hardest hit area in the Bouches-du-Rhône département which has the most intensive care patients in the country (120), bars and restaurants were ordered to close their doors on Sunday, as part of new government measures to attempt to limit the spread of the virus before hospitals become overwhelmed.

Situation in Paris worsens

In the capital, where bars had to shut their doors at 10pm on Monday as new restrictions came into force, hospitals told French media that they would have to start to reschedule planned surgeries due to the increased Covid-19 patient flow.

IN DETAIL: New Covid-19 restrictions in the 12 'high risk' French cities 

“The number of beds dedicated to the care of other patients is shrinking and we still haven't got to the winter season, where usually all intensive care services are saturated by patients with respiratory difficulties due to influenza, etc,” Bruno Megarbane, who heads the intensive care units at the Paris Lariboisière hosptial told BFMTV.

Paris and its suburbs were particularly hard hit by the virus' first wave of infections in March and authorities remain wary of the current situations as infections flare.

Regional health authority ARS Île-de-France also told French media their regional intensive care units were filling up with Covid-19 patients who now occupied 30 percent of their regional intensive care units capacities (344 out of roughly 1,040 beds). 

In the greater Paris region Ile-de-France, the incidence rate was 156.8 new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants on Monday.

However, the capital – not including the suburbs – had an incidence rate of 254 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, and of 95 per 100,000 among those in the age group 60-69.

That means the capital is approaching the government's threshold to qualify as an area on “maximum alert,” the second highest level in the alert system the French government created to clamp down on the accelerated spread of the virus across the country.
 
The decision to place an area on maximum alert is taken by the government and is based on several factors. 

The first of those is recording an infection rate above 250 cases per 100,000 inhabitants and a very high level of spread among elderly (above 100 cases per 100,000 inhabitants).

The third criteria to be classed as an area on “maximum alert” is the situation in an area's hospitals – including having more than  30 percent of hospital beds taken up by Covid-19 patients.

In maximum alert areas all bars and restaurants have been completely shut down for a minimum period of two weeks.

Defied rules

Only Marseille and overseas territory Guadeloupe were labelled “maximum alert” areas when health minister Olivier Véran presented the new system last Wednesday, however the situation will be reviewed weekly and Paris has seen numbers deteriorate this week.

EXPLAINED How does France's new Covid-19 alert system work?

In Marseille, some bar and restaurant owners defied the new rules on Monday and kept open at the risk of being fined.

 

In Paris, some gyms – which also had to close down in all the 11 cities on “heightened alert” – also refused to close their doors, saying the government's targeting of their business was unfair.

Restaurants in the capital can keep open later than 10pm as long as they do not serve alcohol without meals. If the capital gets bumped up one alert level, all bars and restaurants must close down completely for at least two weeks.

The government will review the situation on Wednesday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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