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What can France expect from PM’s new announcements as lockdown reaches crucial two-week mark?

France has reached the two-week mark for the second lockdown and French Prime Minister Jean Castex will present a plan for weeks to come on Thursday evening. What can we expect?

What can France expect from PM's new announcements as lockdown reaches crucial two-week mark?
French Prime Minister Castex will be holding yet another live speech to the country tonight at 6pm. Photo: AFP

When President Emmanuel Macron announced the imminent nationwide lockdown to be imposed on October 30th, he said the government would reconvene in two weeks to decide on the road ahead.

“We will decide, if necessary, on additional measures and will then assess whether we can alleviate certain constraints,” Macron said.

That moment has arrived and the Defence Council is meeting on Thursday morning to thrash out details the road ahead.

Castex will present their decisions at 6pm together with the health minister, economy minister and education minister. We will be following his speech live.

Here's a look at what to expect.

Will shops reopen?

For “non-essential” shop owners, this has been the big question since they had to shut down their business temporarily at the beginning of the second lockdown.

Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire on Thursday morning said “no decision has been taken” yet, and asked everyone to wait for the prime minister's speech before drawing conclusions.

Still, “the worst case scenario would be to let the virus spread because, in that case, the economy could completely collapse,” Le Maire told BFMTV.

 

Several media reports based on information from officials said the government had decided that reopening shops would be premature given Covid-19 numbers are still high.

On Wednesday France reported 35,879 new infections.

Christophe Castaner, former interior minister and now ruling party LREM's parliamentary president, told French media on Tuesday the slowing down of the rates was “not sufficient” yet and that he hoped shops could reopen on December 1st, when the lockdown is due to end.

More police checks?

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin wants to reinforce police checks to ensure compliance with the lockdown rules, which has reportedly been slacker than during the first lockdown this spring.

A new poll showed 60 percent of respondents admitted breaching the lockdown rules. Published by Consolab on Thursday, the poll showed a 27 percent higher non-compliance with the rules compared to this spring.

 

Darmanin asked local authorities to boost the police presence everywhere, “at checkpoints.. (including stations and airports)”, but also parks, gardens and on streets, according to a written note obtained by France Info. 

The interior minister especially wanted to reinforce checks in Paris, where hospitals on Wednesday reported that Covid-19 patients occupied 90 percent of intensive care wards.

Police have issued 65,000 fines since the beginning of lockdown on October 30th, of which 20,000 were handed out in the greater Paris region Île-de-France, the interior ministry informed French media on Tuesday.

Schools to close?

On Tuesday, teachers in France protested the current health rules in place in French schools. Despite a low turnout for the strikers, the government could announce new restrictions such as incorporating more home schooling for secondary school pupils or temporarily closing down high schools (lycées).
 
Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer will be present at the press conference on Thursday evening.
 
The government has already asked high schools to ensure more home schooling and ensure smaller groups in classrooms, although Blanquer has pledged that pupils in lycée will get at least 50 percent face-to-face teaching.
 
What is the Covid-19 situation currently?
 
France on Wednesday reported 329 new Covid-19 deaths in the country's hospitals, lower than Monday and Tuesday (551 and 472), however due to reporting lags over the weekend numbers tend to spike early in the week. There was however a drop from last week,  the country recorded 367 deaths on Wednesday November 4th.

France reported 35,879 new cases on Wednesday, lower than in some previous days when daily infections topped 60,000 but a rise on the 22,000 cases reported on Tuesday. There have been issues in the daily reporting of new infections.

Hospital patient numbers dropped slightly. Overall, 2,588 new patients were admitted on Wednesday, but more patients were sent home and the total number dropped by 581 patients nationwide.

Intensive care units admitted 351 new patients, which was roughly the same level as last week and meant an overall increase by 53 patients when taking into account those who left ICU units.
 

Those numbers seemed to indicate a continuation of the trend of slowly decreasing Covid-19 rates as outlined by France's public health director earlier this week, when he also warned that “the peak of the epidemic is coming.”
 
For full data and maps, see the government's website HERE.
 
 
 
 

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TRAVEL NEWS

France launches ski safety campaign after rising number of accidents

Injuries and even deaths while skiing in France have seen a sharp rise in recent years - leading the French government to create a new ski safety campaign.

France launches ski safety campaign after rising number of accidents

The early part of the ski season in France was dominated by headlines over the lack of snow in popular mountain resorts – but, now that climatic conditions have started to improve for skiers and there is at least some snow, the winter sports season is in gearing up to hit full swing.

READ ALSO Snow latest: Have France’s ski resorts reopened?

Heading into the winter holiday season – French schools in ‘Zone A’ break up for two weeks on February 4th, followed on February 11th by schools in ‘Zone B’, while schools in Zone C finish for the vacation on February 18th – the government has launched an awareness campaign highlighting skiing good practice and how to avoid accidents.

READ ALSO What can I do if I’ve booked a French skiing holiday and there’s no snow?

The Pratiquer l’hiver campaign has advice, posters and videos highlighting safety on the slopes, in an effort to reduce the number of accidents on France’s mountains – where, every year, between 42,000 and 51,000 people have to be rescued, according to the Système National d’Observation de la Sécurité en Montagne (SNOSM)

The campaign, with information in a number of languages including English, covers:

  • on-piste and off-piste safety advice (signalling, avalanche risks, freestyle areas, snowshoes, ski touring, etc.);
  • Help and instructions for children explained in a fun and educational way (educational games, games of the 7 families to be cut out, safety quizzes, advice sheets for sledding, skiing, prevention clips, etc.);
  • physical preparation (warm up before exercise, prepare your muscles and stretch well, also how to adapt the choice of pistes and the speed to your physical condition);
  • equipment and safety (helmet, goggles, sunscreen, etc.);
  • marking and signalling on the slopes (opening and marking of green, blue, red and black slopes, off-piste).

There are 220 ski resorts in France, the world’s second largest ski area, covering more than 26,500 hectares of land, across 30 departements.

In the 2021/22 ski season, totalling 53.9 million ‘ski days’, according to SNOSM, emergency services made 49,622 interventions in France’s ski areas, and 45,985 victims were treated for injuries.

The results show an increase in the number of interventions by ski safety services – a rise of 13 percent compared to the average of the five years prior to the pandemic – and the number of injured, up 8 percent. 

A few incidents on the slopes made the headlines at the time, including the five-year-old British girl who died after an adult skier crashed into her in the Alpine resort of Flaine, and the French actor Gaspard Ulliel, who died at the age of 37 after an accident while skiing in La Rosière, Savoie.

In total, 12 people died as a result of skiing incidents in France in the 2021/22 ski season. Three died following collisions between skiers, two after hitting an obstacle, and seven as a result of a fall or solo injuries. SNOSM also reported “a significant number of non-traumatic deaths, mostly due to cardiac problems” on France’s ski slopes.

The injuries due to solo falls – which represent 95 percent of all injuries –  on the ski slopes increased 2 percent compared to winter 2018/2019. Collisions between users fell, however (4.8 percent against . 5.6 percent) as did collisions between skiers and other people, and obstacles (0.7 percent compared to 0.85 percent).

The number of fatalities caused by avalanches, however, is at a historic low over the period 2011 to 2021, in part because of a relative lack of snow – leading to a drop in the number of avalanches and fewer people going off-piste, while awareness campaigns are hitting their mark, according to SNOSM.

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