“There are areas where the virus is circulating too quickly, especially where it’s circulating a lot among the elderly who are those most vulnerable, and where we’re seeing more and more beds occupied in intensive care units,” Macron said during an interview with France 2 on Wednesday evening.
The French president was speaking on a visit to the southeastern town Breil-sur-Roya, after devastating floods have left at least five people dead and scores of houses destroyed.
On the same night France reported a record-high daily number of new Covid-19 cases along with 80 new deaths.
Santé Publique France on Wednesday recorded 18,746 new Covid-19 cases, the most cases ever recorded in one day and beating the previous of 16,972 set on October 5th – although testing has been greatly expanded since the first wave of cases in March and April.
“We will have to move towards more restrictions, like those we have seen in Bouches-du-Rhône [the département containing Marseille] and Paris and its suburbs,” Macron said.
EXPLAINED: How does France's Covid-19 alert system work?
Macron could be setting the scene for what will happen on Thursday evening, when Health Minister Olivier Véran will hold his weekly update on the general Covid-19 situation in the country.
Currently, Paris and its surrounding suburbs as well as the Marseille metropole are the only areas of mainland France on “maximum alert”.
But the government has warned that cities such as Lille, Grenoble and Lyon were on the brink of following suit if the Covid-19 situation continued to deteriorate.
IN DETAIL: The new Covid-19 restrictions to be enforced in Paris
Lille, Lyon, Grenoble and Saint-Etienne
The numbers health authorities anxiously watch are the pressure on hospitals' intensive care units, the number of elderly contracting the virus and the overall infection rate in an area.
In the greater Paris region Ile-de-France, regional health authority ARS-Ile-de-France on Thursday activated their emergency plan blanc (white plan), to “mobilise all resources” in the coming days, after warning about a mounting pressure on their intensive care units. Paris previously reported having filled 36 percent of its regional intensive care capacity with Covid-19 patients, expecting it to reach 50 percent in less than a fortnight.
Lille, Lyon, Grenoble and Saint-Etienne on Wednesday were all approaching or had surpassed the thresholds set by the government to be set on “maximum alert”, according to French media.
In Lyon, the incidence rate was 245, meaning the city was reporting 245 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants – slightly less than the government's established threshold of 250. However, the incidence rate among elderly was higher than set limit of 100, reaching 145 on Wednesday.
French media reported that the intensive care unit capacity in Lyon also had surpassed the government's threshold of 30 percent, which meant more than 30 percent of the intensive care beds in the hospitals in the area were occupied by Covid-19 patients.
In Lille, the general incidence rate was 295 on Wednesday and as high as 270 among the elderly, while the intensive care unit limit approaching the 30 percent capacity limit.
Saint-Etienne and Grenoble were seeing similar numbers, both cities surpassed the thresholds set to become “maximum alert” zones, according to French media.
What about Toulouse?
Toulouse also featured among the cities in danger of becoming a “maximum alert” zone, according to the health minister. However, there seems to have been a lag in reporting the latest Covid-19 numbers, according to local media
The latest numbers in Toulouse date back to September 30th, when the incidence rate in the city was 260.97. Among the elderly, the rate had surpassed the threshold of 100, but local health authorities did not provide an exact number. The same was the case for the intensive care unit capacity.
According to Santé Publique France's daily updated interactive map
, the Haute-Garonne département, home to Toulouse, counted 33 patients in intensive care units on Wednesday, down from 52 on October 4th. We do not know how many total intensive care beds hospitals in the area have at their disposal, but at the height of the pandemic in early April the département counted 108 intensive care patients.
The Local will follow the health minister's announcements tonight and update here
While Wednesday's record spike in cases was not good news, health experts have warned against comparing current case numbers to those during the height of the pandemic this spring, when France did not mass-test the population and masses of cases went undetected.
The test positivity rate – the number of test that brought back a positive result – continued to rise and reached 9.1 percent (it was less than 2 percent in early August). However, this number too should be cautiously interpreted as the government has urged only those with good reason to think that they could have Covid-19 to get tested, in a bid to ease the high pressure on laboratories and testing centres.