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HEALTH

France’s Covid-19 second wave ‘could be worse than the first’ warns hospitals chief

France's second wave of coronavirus could be worse than the first, the boss of Paris public hospital group AP-HP said on Friday as the country registered a record number of daily cases.

France's Covid-19 second wave 'could be worse than the first' warns hospitals chief
Photo: AFP

With fast-rising pressure on  hospitals, France has expanded a 9pm to 6am curfew to cover 46 million people, more than two-thirds of its population.

MAP These are the areas of France under curfew

“There has been a perception in recent months that a second wave does not exist, or that it is a small wave. The situation is the opposite,” AP-HP hospitals group chief Martin Hirsch told the RTL broadcaster.

“It is possible that the second wave will be worse than the first,” he said, warning of a “daunting” challenge ahead.

On Thursday, France reported a daily record of 41,622 new cases, and the number of patients in intensive care is at its highest level since May.

Thursday's figure of 165 fatalities in 24 hours is still well below the April peak, when the death toll soared to more than 900 a day.

Prime Minister Jean Castex conceded that hospitals were likely to come under pressure.

“The new cases of today are the hospitalised patients of tomorrow. The month of November will be difficult,” he wrote on Twitter.

 

Hirsch said the average age of intensive care patients in AP-HP's hospitals was 62.

Many were older people who self-isolated but were infected when their children visited them.

And Hirsch said the real number of cases was likely to be much higher than official tallies, as many asymptomatic carriers are never tested.

“There are many positive people, infectious, in the streets without knowing it and without anyone else knowing it,” he said.

Hirsch said the leave of some hospital workers had been cancelled ahead of “this daunting month of November”.

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HEALTH

Health insurance: France to roll out smartphone version of carte vitale

France has begun a trial in eight areas of a smartphone version of the 'carte vitale' - the card required to access the French public health system - with the eventual aim of rolling out the app across the country. Here's how it will work.

Health insurance: France to roll out smartphone version of carte vitale

What is happening?

France is making changes to the carte vitale – the crucial card that allows residents of France to access the public health system. If you don’t have the card – here’s how to get it.

The new project involves replacing the physical card with a virtual one that is stored on your smartphone via an app.

The French government is beginning a pilot project in eight départements with the intention of expanding the system to cover the whole country in 2023.

The trial areas are; Bas-Rhin, Loire-Atlantique, Puy-de-Dôme, Saône-et-Loire, Sarthe, Seine-Maritime, Rhône and Alpes-Maritimes and the trials are voluntary for people who want to sign up. 

How does it work?

At present, the app is only available to those living in the trial areas mentioned above, and it can only be used by people who are already registered in the French system and have a carte vitale. It is not an alternative to the current registration process. 

If you have a carte vitale, however, you can transfer it onto your phone, which saves you having to remember to carry your card around.

You first download the app MonCV and then begin the sign-up process. In order to do this you will need your current card and social security number and will also have to go through a series of security steps including uploading a scan of your passport or ID card and then making a ‘short film’ of your face in order to verify your identity. 

Once registered, you can then use it at the doctor, pharmacist, vaccine centre or any other situation in which you previously used your carte vitale. You will be able to either show a QR code to scan, or scan your phone using NFC technology (similar to Metro and train smartphone tickets, which works even if your phone is turned off or out of battery).

Can you still use a card version?

Yes. If you don’t own a smartphone or are just not a fan of apps you can continue to use the physical card with no changes.

What does this change for healthcare access?

It doesn’t change anything in terms of your access to healthcare or paying for it, but some extra functions are set to be added to the app once the scheme is rolled out nationwide.

The first one is to link up your carte vitale with your mutuelle (complementary insurance) if you have it, so you don’t need to show extra proof from your insurance company in order to get full reimbursement.

The second is to add a ‘trusted person’ to your carte vitale, allowing them to use your card to, for example, pick up a prescription for you or to allow grandparents to take children to medical appointments (normally children are included on their parents’ card). 

Is this replacing the biometric carte vitale? 

You might remember talk earlier this year of a ‘biometric’ carte vitale, in which people would have to register biometric details such as their fingerprints in order to keep using their carte vitale.

This seems to have now been kicked into the long grass – it was a parliamentary amendment to a bill proposed by the centre-right Les Républicains party and was intended to combat prescription fraud.

Experts within the sector say that the costs and inconvenience of making everyone register their biometric details and get a new card far outweigh the costs of prescription fraud and the idea seems to have been put on the back burner for now. 

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