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Intensive care units ‘will be almost full by next week’ warns Paris hospital chief

Intensive care units at Paris hospitals will be packed with Covid-19 patients as soon as next week, the system's chief warned Tuesday, ratcheting up expectations that President Emmanuel Macron is preparing tougher measures to slow the surge in cases.

Intensive care units 'will be almost full by next week' warns Paris hospital chief
Martin Hirsch, head of the Paris hospitals group AP-HP. Photo: AFP

“It's inevitable,” Martin Hirsch, the head of the 39 hospitals in Paris and its suburbs, told the Parisien newspaper.

“By around October 24th, there will be a minimum of 800 to 1,000 Covid patients in intensive care, representing 70 to 90 percent of our current capacity,” he said.

READ ALSO Is the Covid-19 situation in French hospitals as bad as March?

The prospect puts more pressure on Macron, who is widely expected to announce tighter restrictions in a prime-time TV interview Wednesday night.

He met with top ministers on Tuesday morning to evaluate potential measures, with media reports suggesting a curfew is likely for the capital and other cities at risk of seeing their hospitals overwhelmed.

Since Macron's last major TV interview, to mark the Bastille Day holiday in July, the government has made the wearing of face masks compulsory both inside enclosed public spaces nationwide and outside in Paris and most other cities.

“This is a pivotal moment,” a source close to the presidency said, confirming that while a curfew is under consideration, a full lockdown for the capital or other cities is off the table for now.

READ ALSO What can we expect from Macron's TV broadcast?

Macron will also call on people “to better learn to live with the virus, over a longer period, to avoid making the situation even worse,” the source said.

On Saturday, the number of new infections in France rose by 26,896 in 24 hours, a record since widespread testing began.

And the national health agency reported a spike in Covid deaths on Monday to 94 in the previous 24 hours, with 171 new patients in intensive care (although numbers tend to be higher on Mondays due to a time lag in reporting over the weekend).

“Individual responsibility is 50 percent of this. We won't succeed if people don't get serious,” a government source told AFP.

Hirsch called for tighter work-from-home requirements and new measures to ensure social distancing.

“All of us – you, me, everyone – have to reduce our social contacts by 20 percent,” he said.

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COVID-19

Where in France do you still need a face mask?

In France, masks will no longer be required on indoor transport as of Monday, May 16th. Here are rules and recommendations that are still in place:

Where in France do you still need a face mask?

Members of the public in France have been asked to wear face masks for the most part of two years, at times even outside in the street.

Since March 14th, 2022, the facial coverings have no longer been mandatory in most establishments such as shops, and as of Monday, May 16th, it will no longer be mandatory on indoor public transport. 

As of May 16th, you will therefore no longer be required to wear a mask in the following transports:

  • Buses and coaches
  • Subways and streetcars
  • RER and TER
  • TGV and interregional lines
  • Taxis

Regarding airplanes whether or not you must wear a mask is a bit more complicated.

On Wednesday, May 11th, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announced that from May 16th onward it would no longer be required to wear a mask in airports and on board aircraft in the European Union. However, Germany has stated that it does not have the intention of lifting its requirement of wearing a mask on its airlines – this would include the Lufthansa airline. Thus, it will be necessary for passengers to still very to rules each airline has in place, which could be the case when travelling to a country that still has indoor mask requirements in place.

EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky specified that vulnerable people should continue to wear masks, and that “a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, to reassure those seated nearby.”

Masks still obligatory in medical settings

However, it will still be mandatory for caregivers, patients and visitors in health care facilities, specifically including hospitals, pharmacies, medical laboratories, retirement homes, and establishments for the disabled. 

For people who are vulnerable either due to their age or their status as immunocompromised, wearing a mask will continue to be recommended, though not required, particularly for enclosed spaces and in large gatherings.

Masks are also still recommended for people who test positive, people who might have come in contact with Covid-19, symptomatic people and healthcare professionals.

Will masks come back?

It is possible. French Health Minister Olivier Véran does not exclude the return of mandatory mask-wearing, should the health situation require it.

What are the other Covid-19 restrictions that remain in place?

The primary restriction that has not changed is the French government’s regulation for testing positive: If you are unvaccinated and test positive, isolation is still required for 10 days, if you are vaccinated, this requirement is seven days. Isolation can be reduced from 10 to 7 days or from 7 to 5 days if a negative covid test is performed, and symptoms are no longer present.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What Covid restrictions remain in place in France?

The French Health Ministry still recommends following sanitary measures such as: wearing a mask in places where it is still mandatory, hand washing, regular ventilation of rooms, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, and using a single-use handkerchief (tissue).

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