MAP: The areas of France where the Covid-19 situation is still worrying

As France prepares to ease lockdown rules this weekend, we look at regional differences in levels of spread of the virus and how pressure on hospitals varies around the country.

MAP: The areas of France where the Covid-19 situation is still worrying
Joggers run past police in Marseille, southern France, on October 31st, during the second nationwide lockdown. Photo: AFP/Santé Publique France

To monitor the state of the Covid-19 epidemic in the country, French health authorities use several key indicators that they break down on a local level.

One of these is the incidence rate or infection rate, which refers to the number of positive cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the course of seven days.

The map below shows how the incidence rate varied across France according to the most recent data, published by France's public health agency Santé Publique France for the week of November 16th until November 22nd.

Map: Santé Publique France

Départements coloured the lightest shade of blue reported a low incidence rate between 10 and 20 – there doesn't appear to be any on this map. 

As the key for the map above shows, the lighter blue tone means the incidence rate was between 20 and 50 per 100,000, while the darker shade of blue reflects a rate between 50 and 150, and then the next level is for infection rates between 150 and 250 per 100,000.

Areas coloured dark blue on the map had an incidence rate above 250, which in the period preceding the lockdown meant an area would tip into maximum alert level with increased restrictions including a curfew.

As the map shows, areas that continue to struggle with high levels of spread are those around Lyon (although Lyon itself reported somewhat lower levels of spread) and those départements on the Swiss border.

One of those départements, Haute Savoie, is the hardest hit area of France with an infection rate of 430.1 per 100,000. In neighbouring Savoie the rate was 315 per 100,000. 

The Haute-Alpes département bordering Italy also has a stubbornly high infection rate (306.9 per 100,000).

The high infection rates in these areas is part of the reason why President Emmanuel Macron has decided not to allow ski resorts to open this Christmas.

Départements on the Belgian border (Ardennes) and the Yonne département, southwest of Paris, also still have high infection rates – both around 274 per 100,000.

Paris itself reported much lower levels of Covid-19 spread (97.1 per 100,000) than it had in the preceding weeks, indicating that lockdown and the preceding curfew has had a positive effect and dramatically reduced transmission levels in Paris.

The western département of Finistere in Brittany had the country's lowest incidence rate (35.2 per 100,000).

READ ALSO: Why France's new Covid-19 figures give reasons to be optimistic

However, test rates have plunged in November too, and doctors warn that these numbers must be interpreted with some caution as they cannot be certain of the reason why fewer people get tested. It could reflect a general decrease in need to get tested, but it could also – and that's more worrying – be that people are less prone to get tested under lockdown.

What is the situation in hospitals?

Other crucial indicators to monitor the spread of the virus are hospital patient numbers and intensive care patient numbers.

As of November 25th, French hospitals counted 29,972 Covid-19 patients, a drop down from over 30,000 in the preceding weeks.

However there were big regional differences in the level of pressure on hospitals.  The map below shows how many patients were currently hospitalised in different French regions on November 25th.

Photo: French government

The same was the case for intensive care wards, which counted 4,148 total patients in France as of November 25th. This number has stabilised since the lockdown, although some regions still struggle to cope with high pressure (especially Paris and Lyon areas).

The map below shows how many patients were admitted to hospital intensive care wards in different French regions on November 25th.

Photo: French government



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French public urged to wear face masks again on public transport

With France in the middle of a new wave of Covid-19, the country's health minister has urged the public to once again wear face masks on public transport and in crowded spaces.

French public urged to wear face masks again on public transport

With cases on the rise again, French Health Minister Brigitte Bourguignon said she is “[asking] the French to put masks back on in transport” in an interview with RTL on Monday, 

For the time being, however, she stressed it was just advice, rather than an obligation, and masks have in fact been recommended on public transport since the legal requirement to wear them was lifted in May. 

However with France reporting over 50,000 daily cases of Covid-19 the government is clearly concerned by the current wave of the pandemic.

Bourguignon said that “we must protect ourselves and protect others,” adding that wearing a mask is “a civic gesture.”

She urged people to don their masks as soon as they see a crowded train or station.

READ MORE: Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

In addition to public transport, Bourguignon is also asking the French to once again mask-up in “all crowded, enclosed areas.”

Currently, masks are only required in hospitals, health centres and places that have vulnerable residents such as nursing homes. They are recommended in crowded spaces where it is impossible to practice social distancing.