Health Minister Olivier Véran on Thursday afternoon gave an update on the latest health situation, but did not announce any new measures, which are being debated by the government and expected in the next few days.
He said: “We are not in an epidemic wave, when the virus is spreading exponentially like last spring, but we are on a rising plateau, which is increasing by 10 percent each week.”
The major worry was around the new, more contagious variants of the virus discovered in the UK and South Africa, which now account for 2,000 new cases a day – around 10 percent of the total.
Véran warned that: “The 6pm curfew together with other measures are useful but probably insufficient. What we want to avoid is an epidemic within the epidemic [of new variants].”
“I consider these variants to be a bit like new viruses requiring new measures to protect us.”
He refused to be drawn on what the new measures might be, however, saying only that the government was consulting widely.
The government spokesman Gabriel Attal on Wednesday said that various different scenarios were being considered ranging from “maintaining the current framework, which is unlikely, to very strict lockdown”.
No date has been given on when new measures will be announced, but it is expected to be either over the weekend or at the start of next week.
Case numbers of new Covid cases currently stand at an average of 20,000 a day – considerably less than the 50,000 a day that France saw when it went into lockdown for a second time in October, but a number that has been growing at a rate of 10 percent per week for the last month.
Véran also said he was concerned about the situation in hospitals, many of which, he said, were under extreme pressure.
Hospitals in Nice, where the département of Alpes-Maritimes has the highest incidence rate in France, have been forced to transfer intensive care patients out of the region. The hard-hit eastern regions of Grand Est and Bourgogne-Franche-Comté have also been transferring intensive care patients.
There are currently 27,000 Covid patients in hospital of whom 3,100 are in intensive care – the occupancy rate of intensive care units has jumped from 50 percent to 60 percent since Christmas.