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ANALYSIS: Will France reach its Covid-19 goals to ease lockdown in December?

With less than two weeks to go, is France on the right track to reach its Covid-19 targets for easing lockdown?

ANALYSIS: Will France reach its Covid-19 goals to ease lockdown in December?
Parisians check out the window display outside the Galeries Lafayette departmentstore in the capital on November 28th, the day France eased lockdown somewhat and allowed non-essential stores to reopen

When French President Emmanuel Macron announced that France would lift lockdown on December 15th, he said this would only happen if the country’s Covid-19 levels were low enough.

“If we have reached around 5,000 new cases per day and around 2,500 to 3,000 people in intensive care . . . lockdown can be lifted,” Macron said.

France imposed a second lockdown on October 30th when the country’s hospitals found themselves on the verge of becoming overwhelmed with critically ill patients for a second time this year, after the Covid-19 epidemic exploded across the country.

MAP: How France’s Covid-19 second wave exploded in just a month

The lockdown effectively halted the spread, causing case numbers, hospital patient numbers, intensive care patient numbers and, more recently, death tolls to drop. 

But daily case numbers remain above 5,000 – on Wednesday evening French health authorities reported 14,064 new Covid-19 positives – and Macron was clear that, when deciding on whether or not to lift the lockdown as planned on the 15th, reducing the number of new positives to 5,000 per day would be key.
 
 
 
Hospital workers in France transfer a Covid-19 patient from one hospital to another. Photo: AFP
 
Will France reach its goal of 5,000 cases?
 
“We are on the right track,” epidemiologist Antoine Flahault told The Local. 
 
Flahault is the Director of the Institute for Global Health at the University of Geneva, which monitors the development of Covid-19 closely in the world.
 
While he stressed that their models could not predict events too far ahead in the future – even December 15th was “too far ahead to be precise” – he also said that, if the current trend persisted, France “should arrive below 5,000” new cases per day in time.
 
Latest cases data
 
In late October, at the peak of the second wave of the virus, France recorded roughly 50,000 new Covid-19 cases each day on average.
 
Last week that number had dropped to around 12,000 on average. The steep decrease was proof that the lockdown, even the more relaxed version imposed this autumn, was effective, health authorities concluded.

Daily numbers of new cases tend to fluctuate, and usually drop sharply at weekends and on Mondays, but a weekly average of new cases shows a clear trend – on December 2nd, the average number of cases over the previous seven days was 10,965, on November 25th, it was 16,723 and the week before – November 18th – the weekly average was 29,585. 

The R rate on Wednesday had dropped down to 0.56, which means 10 new Covid-19 positives will infect 5 to 6 other people on average, implying an overall shrinking disease across France.

Parisians at a bookstore as non-essential shops were allowed to reopen on November 28th. Photo: AFP

What about intensive care patients?

France's intensive care patient numbers began to decrease about two weeks into lockdown.

Due to improvements in treatment of the virus, the total number of intensive care patients peaked at a lower level than during the first wave of the virus – around 5,000 patients compared to 7,000 back in early April – despite the total number of hospital patients reaching a higher level than this spring.

On December 2nd, France counted 3,488 total patients in intensive care wards – 117 less than the day before.

 

If the current trend continues, France will reach its goal of less than 3,000 total intensive care patients on December 15th, according to French data scientist Guillaume Rozier, who daily crunches Covid-19 numbers for his site Covid Tracker. see graphic below).

 

The percentage of intensive care beds occupied by Covid-19 patients – another key indicator into how the health system is coping – has also shown a slow steady drop, from near total capacity when lockdown was imposed to 68.8 percent on Tuesday.

Death rates are not one of the indicators that lifting lockdown depends on, but these too have begun to fall, albeit slowly. France recorded 310 Covid-19 deaths on December 2nd, down from 384 the week before.

A recent resurgence?

But on Saturday, November 28th, France relaxed lockdown rules somewhat, letting non-essential shops reopen and permitting individual trips outside for exercise for up to three hours a day and within 20 kilometres of the home.

“It is possible that the virus will slow down less quickly due to this relaxation, and that we may not reach the goal by December 15th,” Flahault said, “but we would if things stayed the way they are today.”

The President of the Scientific Council which advises the government on its Covid-19 strategies, Jean-François Delfraissy, told Le Monde late in November that he thought the country would reach the goal of 5,000 cases per day “after Christmas, or early January”.
 

Customers with protective face masks queue up outside a clothing shop in Cabries, southeastern France, on November 28th. Photo: AFP 

Daniel Camus, a professor at the Pasteur Institute in Lille, one of the foremost French research institutes studying the pandemic, told The Local he worried about the recent rise of the number of daily cases.

“Five thousand is not an unrealistic number, but it all depends on the French,” he said. 

It could be a blip, but it could also be the sign that the virus was spreading with increased pace, Camus said, adding that the next few days would be crucial for determining whether the spike was just a one-off or a trend.

“We are in a period of uncertainty,” he said, “we will know more on Saturday.”

Camus said there was a “real risk” that relaxing the lockdown rules could provoke a third wave of infections.

“We are seeing clearly that some are behaving in a risky way,” he said, referring to the masses gathering in Paris and other cities last Saturday to protest a new security law, and to media reports showing crowds queuing as shops reopened.

“The virus is still circulating at a very high level. If we let go now, we risk a resurgence,” he said.

 
 
 

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HEALTH

French vocab and prices: Your guide to visiting the dentist in France

From finding a dentist to treatment costs, plus the crucial bits of French vocab, here's everything you need to know about visiting the dentist in France.

French vocab and prices: Your guide to visiting the dentist in France

The dentist – as unjustly dreaded in France as they are anywhere else in the world.

But, while few, if any, of us enjoy visiting our friendly, neighbourhood chirurgien-dentiste, we all know that it’s important to care for our teeth and gums, so here’s what you need to know.

How to make an appointment

A simple web search for a dentiste or chirurgien-dentiste will bring up the contact details of local professionals. Then it’s a case of ringing up to make an appointment. There is no need to be registered with a dentist, you can visit anyone who has a free appointment, although you may prefer to keep your appointments with the same person if you are  having ongoing treatment.

Alternatively, sites such as Doctolib may allow you to book a slot online.

If you’re worried about remembering your French verb conjugation while you have a mouth full of blood, Doctolib also lets you know which languages your dentist speaks.

READ ALSO How to use the French medical website Doctolib

How much it costs

The government-set going rate for a dental check-up is €23 for dentists working in the public health system – which most do. As a result, 70 percent of that fee, paid at the time of the consultation, will be reimbursed for anyone who holds a carte vitale.

Check-ups last as long as the dentist needs to examine your teeth. If no additional work is required, it’s just a few minutes in the chair.

If you require additional work, then how much you pay goes up – along with the time it takes. A basic filling, for example, costs €26.97, of which €18.88 is reimbursed. Descaling adds €28.92 to the initial bill, but is again partially reimbursed.

The upfront cost of root canal work on a molar, meanwhile, is €81.94, while extraction of a permanent tooth costs €33.44. 

The full price list is available on the Ameli website.

For any procedure that costs more than €70, your dentist will provide you with a written estimate, along with a number of options. 

Remember, these prices are for dentists operating in the state sector. Fees at private practices are higher.

What about crowns, implants or dentures?

Your dentist might offer you the option of a crown or implant instead of the basic treatments of fillings and extractions, but these are expensive and are usually not covered on the carte vitale, so here whether or not you have a mutuelle is important.

The top-up health cover known as a mutuelle – find more details here – will generally offer dental cover, but exactly what is covered depends on your policy.

If you require special treatment, make sure to consult the price list, as you will often have to pay up front before you can claim anything back. 

Dental hygienist/teeth-cleaning

If you like to visit the dentist regularly for a scale and polish you will need to check whether your dentist’s cabinet employs a hygiéniste dentaire (dental hygienist).

Most practices do but not all. If you’re going to a new practice it’s generally better to make an appointment first with the dentist for a check-up, and then ask for regular hygienist appointments.

Useful vocabulary

Dental surgery – un cabinet dentaire

Emergency dentist – un dentiste de service

I would like to make an appointment – je voudrais prendre un rendez-vous

I would like a check-up – je voudrais une visite de contrôle

It is an emergency – c’est une urgence

A tooth – une dent

Wisdom teeth – les dents de sagesse

A filling – une plombage or un pansement

une dévitalisation – root canal

I have broken a tooth – je me suis cassé une dent

I have a toothache – j’ai mal aux dents

My gums are bleeding – Mes gencives saignent

I have a cavity – J’ai une carie

My gums hurt – J’ai mal aux gencives

This one hurts – Celle-là me fait mal

These ones hurt – Celles-là me font mal

An abscess – Percer un abcès

Nerve – le nerf

An extraction – une extraction

Injection – une injection/une piqûre

Local anaesthetic – une anesthésie locale

Denture/s – les dentier/s or une prothèse dentaire/les prothèses dentaires

A crown – une couronne

A bridge – un bridge

ARRRRRRGH – AIIIIIIIIE (hopefully you won’t need this one)

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