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HEALTH

MAPS: The latest on the Covid situation across France

As President Emmanuel Macron and his government decide whether or not to impose a third lockdown in France, this is the latest on the epidemic situation.

MAPS: The latest on the Covid situation across France
Intensive care units are becoming under increasing pressure from Covid again, especially in some parts of France. Photo: AFP
French Health Minister Olivier Véran presented the latest data on Thursday, cautioning that the Covid-19 virus was still spreading at an increasingly rapid pace across the country.
 
The government has said it will announce potential new restrictions in the coming days and that, according to the government's spokesman Gabriel Attal, “all options are on the table,” including a “very strict lockdown”.
 
 
But the current epidemic situation is different from that seen before the first and second lockdowns. Here's a look at what the numbers say.
 
Cases

The number of new Covid-19 cases remains high and rising. 

Health authorities recorded 26,916 new cases on January 27th, 22,086 on January 26th, 4,240 on January 25th (this was a Monday which normally sees low cases due to testing centres being closed on Sundays) and 18,436 on January 24th.

In a month, the weekly average has increased from around 18,000 new cases per day to 20,000.

“We are not in an epidemic wave, when the virus spreads exponentially like last spring,” said Véran, “but we are on a rising plateau, which is increasing by 10 percent per week.”

 

While case rates have not yet exploded, the daily average has reached a level that is four times higher than the threshold of 5,000 cases per day Macron outlined in autumn in order to to reopen restaurants, bars, gyms, cinemas and other closed establishments.

 
Hospital situation 

Hospitals too are seeing patient numbers increase slowly yet steadily, as shown in the graphic below.

Graphic: French government

France counted 27,169 patients admitted into hospital for Covid-19 on January 27th, 3,107 of which were in intensive care.

On a national level, hospitals are not yet overwhelmed like they were back in spring and again in October, when patient numbers exceeded 30,000 nationwide.

But some intensive care units were approaching a pressure equal to that in October before the second lockdown, Véran said.

“We’re nearly at a 100 percent occupancy rate (in some regions),” Véran said, adding that some hospitals had already begun a transferring patients.

The national occupancy rate has risen from 50 percent to over 60 percent in less than a month, as shown in the graph below.

Map: French government

Hospitals say that their staff were already overworked and that a third wave of patients similar to those in spring and autumn would be extremely difficult to manage.

Regional differences 

While the intensive care occupancy rate is 61 percent nationwide, several areas in the east have rates exceeding 70 or 80.

The map below shows in which areas hospitals are suffering heavy pressure (red), moderate pressure (yellow) and light pressure (green) due to Covid)-19.

Map: French government

Different regions are also experiencing different levels of spread, as shown in the interactive map below, published by the French public health agency Santé Publique France.
 
The map has the incidence rate – the number of new cases per 100,000 inhabitants – broken down to a local level. The darker the blue, the higher the rate of Covid positives is. 
 
 

New variants 

While the map above is not as dark blue as it has been in the past, authorities worry that the new variants, including the more contagious one first discovered in the UK, soon will change that.

READ ALSO: New 'UK variant' of Covid predicted to be dominant in France by March

Véran said France had gone from registering 500 new cases per day of the new variants in early January to over 2,000 per day now. 

Curfew
 
He also said the current 6pm-6am curfew was unlikely to be a tough enough measure faced with this new threat.
 
“The 6pm curfew together with other measures are useful but probably insufficient,” he said.
 
The nationwide 6pm curfew was imposed on January 16th, but several areas imposed it from January 2nd. Macron is said to want to see data from two full weeks of the national curfew before taking a decision on a third lockdown. 
 
Véran said: “I'm convinced that without the curfew, we would have had a plateau but an epidemic wave by now.”
 
However as shown in the graph below, the curfew had an impact on the areas that imposed it early in January, but that impact has been fading since January 16th.
 
 
Photo: France Info

Vaccines 

The big hope is that the Covid vaccine will become a game changer this spring.
 
France had on Wednesday had administered 1,184,510 injections, covering between 0.88 and 1.77 percent of the population, according to French data scientist Guillaume Rozier, who tracks the vaccine progress in France.
 
As for the population aged over 80, in total 10 percent have got at least one injection (the French government does not yet separate the first and second doses when publishing its vaccine data).

 
 
The government's latest timetable has everyone in France who wants it receiving the vaccine by the end of August, but that was published before problems became apparent with the supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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POLITICS

‘Public opinion is ready’ – These French senators want to legalise marijuana

A group of 31 French senators of the Socialist, Green and Republican parties have come together to write a statement calling for the legalisation of marijuana in France.

'Public opinion is ready' - These French senators want to legalise marijuana

France is known for having some of the strictest laws regarding marijuana consumption in Europe – while simultaneously maintaining one of the highest rates of cannabis usage in the EU. 

A group of French senators – coming from the Socialist, Green and centre-right Les Républicains parties – are trying to change those laws, and have come together to call for marijuana to be legalised in France.

The group of 31 co-signed a statement published in French newspaper, Le Monde, on Wednesday, August 10th.

In the statement, the senators promised to launch a ‘consultation process’ to submit a bill to legalise marijuana “in the coming months.”

The proposition was headed by Senator Gilbert-Luc Devinaz, a member of the Socialist Party, and gained support from the party’s leader, Patrick Kanner.

READ MORE: The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

A report by the Assemblé Nationale, which was published in May 2021, estimated that nearly 18 million French people (more than 25 percent of the population) had already consumed marijuana, and that an additional 1.5 million consume it regularly.

This, coupled with the 2019 finding that nearly one in two French people (45 percent) said they were in favour of legalisation, according to a survey by the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), helped strengthen the senators’ position.

“Public opinion is ready, the legislature must act,” they wrote.

Their senators argue that legalising marijuana in France will allow the authorities to better protect French citizens, saying that legalising would not require “minimising the health impacts of cannabis consumption” but rather would allow regulation similar to “public policies for tobacco, alcohol or gambling.”

For the group of 31 senators, the benefits of legalisation would involve a better control over the “health quality of products consumed,” “curbing trafficking in disadvantaged areas,” developing large-scale prevention plans,” and finally the taxation of cannabis products and redirection of law enforcement resources. Decriminalisation – in their opinion – would not be sufficient as this would simply “deprive authorities the ability to act,” in contrast to legalisation. 

READ MORE: Is France moving towards legalising cannabis for recreational purposes?

“In the long term, new tax revenues would be generated from the cannabis trade and from savings in the justice and police sectors”, which would make it possible to mobilize “significant resources for prevention as well as for rehabilitation and economic development,” wrote the senators.

In France, the conversation around cannabis has evolved in recent years – former Health Minister (and current government spokesman) Olivier Véran said to France Bleu in September 2021 that “countries that have gone towards legalisation have results better than those of France in the last ten years,” adding that he was interested in the potential therapeutic use of cannabis.

Currently, the drug is illegal in France. Previously, it fell under a 1970-law of illicit drug use, making it punishable with up to a year prison and an up to €3,750 fine.

However, in 2020, the government softened the penalties, making it possible for those caught consuming it to opt for an on-the-spot fine of €200.

There is also an ongoing trial involving 3,000 patients to test the impacts of medical marijuana usage, particularly with regard to pain relief. 

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