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HEALTH

‘No more slackening’ warns French PM as two more cities move to maximum Covid-19 alert

Two more French cities have been moved to 'maximum alert' status as Covid-19 cases continue to rise, bringing the total number on the highest alert level to eight, as the prime minister warned that this is 'the reality of the second wave'.

'No more slackening' warns French PM as two more cities move to maximum Covid-19 alert
The southern French city of Toulouse is now on maximum alert level. Photo: AFP

The metropole areas of Toulouse and Montpellier were on Sunday evening declared 'maximum alert' zones – joining Paris, Marseille, Lille, Lyon, Grenoble and Saint-Etienne on the highest alert level.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex, speaking on France Info on Monday morning, warned: “The French were a little too quick to consider that this virus had disappeared.

“The reality of the second wave is here – there can be no more slackening.”

France's health minister Olivier Véran in his weekly briefing on Thursday warned that both Toulouse and Montpellier were in danger of exceeding the thresholds set by the government to be declared maximum alert areas.

The maximum alert designation brings with it a string of restrictions including the closure of all bars, gyms and sports centres and a limit of 10 people at gatherings in public places. Restaurants and cafés, however, can stay open.

For more details on exactly what maximum alert involved, click here.

But the prime minister said too many people were failing to appreciate that “the second wave is here,” and pointed to Paris and its suburbs, where agents carried out some 500 checks over the weekend to ensure bars were closed as ordered and restaurants were ensuring social distancing measures

“In 95 cases, the agents had to hand out fines,” Castex said.

He also appealed to French people to limit private gatherings in their home.

France's Covid-19 rules limit gatherings in public places to 10 people, but there is no such limit for gatherings a home.

The PM said: “I can not regulate private spaces … but there is someone who can regulate private space: it is the owner, the householder.

“I ask that barrier gestures be respected in private as well as in public space.”

His words echoed those of the health minister, who on Thursday said people should not be having “multiple dinner parties” in their homes.

READ ALSO Social bubbles: Why does France have no Covd-19 laws on events in private spaces?

In a attempt to avoid another nationwide lockdown, France is operating a series of local restrictions, based on the alert level assigned to each area.

An area is declared a maximum alert zone once it has passed three criteria; more than 250 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people, more than 100 cases per 100,000 of people in vulnerable groups and pressure on local hospitals with more than 30 percent of intensive care beds occupied by Covid-19 patients.

Marseille was the first area to be placed on this alert, followed by Paris, while Lille, Lyon, Grenoble and Saint-Etienne were declared on maximum alert on Thursday. On Monday it was announced that Marseille's alert level has been extended until October 27th

The measures are introduced for 15 days and then the situation is reviewed.

Alert levels are assigned on a metropole basis – the city and its surrounding urban areas.

In Montpellier this involves the city itself plus the communes of Saint-Gély-du-Fesc, Saint-Clément-de-Rivière, Teyran, Palavas-les-Flots, Saint-Aunès, Mauguio and Montarnaud.

In Toulouse it is the city plus Colomiers, Tournefeuille, Blagnac, Plaisance-du-Touch, Cugnaux, Balma, Castanet-Tolosan, Saint-Orens-de-Gameville, Labège, Aucamville, Launaguet, L'Union, Portet-sur-Garonne, Ramonville-Saint-Agne, Auzeville-Tolosane and Quint-Fonsegrives.

The new measures come into force on Tuesday, October 13th.

Castex also added that a new version of France's contact tracing app StopCovid would be released on October 22nd.

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ENVIRONMENT

High pollen counts predicted in France due to heatwave

Pollen from highly allergenic ragweed plant is expected to peak earlier this year, as a result of high temperatures.

High pollen counts predicted in France due to heatwave

Ragweed pollen (ambroisie) is expected to spread earlier this year across many parts of France, particularly in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region.

The National Aerobiological Surveillance Network (NASN) announced on Tuesday that the Lyon region has reached a critical threshold of ragweed pollen in the air to begin causing allergic reactions in sensitive people. The peak for the concentration of pollen in the air is expected for the end of August, which would be in approximately 20 days.

While the risk of allergic reaction is highest in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes currently, particularly in areas like northern Isère, Drôme, Ardèche and southern Rhône, the plant has spread across different regions in France. Up to 15 percent of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes could experience some level of allergic reaction from the plant, as it is highly allergenic, according to Anses.

It can also be found in Burgundy, Franche-Comté, New Aquitaine, Occitanie, as well as the north of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.

However, in contrast, ragweed is typically neither found in the Northern and Western parts of the country, nor along the Mediterranean coast.

The high pollen counts are expected approximately one week early this year due to the high temperatures seasonal temperatures.

Ragweed pollen can cause runny noses, stinging eyes and even breathing difficulties in people with an allergy, said Samuel Monnier, engineer at the NASN, to BFMTV.

If you have a ragweed allergy, consider consulting a doctor or allergist to pre-empt or treat the symptoms, recommends Monnier. Residents in regions where the pollen count is high might also consider drying clothes inside rather than outside, in order to keep the pollen from sticking to clothing. 

The plant is considered particularly invasive, and many local authorities have put into place systems to remove it when spotted.  In order to report the presence of ragweed, you can go to the website signalement-ambroisie.fr or download the smartphone application “Signalement-Ambroisie.”

If you’re sensitive to pollen, you can keep up with the interactive pollen count maps across France by going to the website www.pollens.fr/

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