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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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COVID-19

New Covid wave in autumn ‘virtually certain’ say French experts

The head of the government's new health advisory body says that a surge of Covid cases when the French head back to work after the summer break is virtually certain.

New Covid wave in autumn 'virtually certain' say French experts

Immunologist Brigitte Autran, president of new government health advisory body the Comité de veille et d’anticipation des risques sanitaires (Committee to monitor and anticipate health risks) which has replaced the Conseil scientifique, told Le Parisien that “the Covid epidemic is not behind us” and said that the French would have to get used to “living with” the virus.

The Covidtracker website currently shows that the virus is in decline across France, with the R-rate currently at 0.7 – any figure lower than one indicates that the number of infections is falling.

Autran, whose appointment as head of the new body was confirmed on Wednesday, said that the most likely scenario was for a “new epidemic peak in the autumn”, when people return to work after the summer holidays.

“Will it be due to a new variant or the return of cold weather?” she said. “We are not soothsayers, but it is almost certain that there will be a wave.”

“Today, we must go towards living with it,” she added, reintroducing the French to an expression previously used by President Emmanuel Macron and several ministers.

“This does not mean accepting the deaths or the severity of the disease,” she went on, pointing to the fact that health authorities in France still have “levers to activate” to fight the virus. 

Despite the fact that nearly 80 percent (79.6 percent) of people over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated against the virus, she said that, “unfortunately there are still too many people who have not been vaccinated or revaccinated.”

And she said the new body would work with the government to improve the public’s access to drugs, such as Paxlovid, and vaccines.

Vaccination is still open to anyone who has not yet had their shots, while a second booster shot is on offer to certain groups including over 60s, pregnant women, those with health conditions or people who are in close contact with vulnerable people.

EXPLAINED Who qualifies for a second Covid vaccine booster shot in France?

The French government in August voted to end to State of Emergency that allowed it to impose measures like travel bans and lockdowns, although further restrictions could be put in place if cases rise again and parliament agrees. 

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