How effective are France’s weekend lockdowns in curbing Covid?

To curb the rising spread of Covid-19, French President Emmanuel Macron has been mulling over imposing a weekend lockdown in Paris and other hard-hit regions. But how much impact does this measure really have?

How effective are France's weekend lockdowns in curbing Covid?
Dog walkers have more freedom to leave their home than others during the weekend lockdowns in Nice, south of France. Photo: Valery HACHE / AFP

Macron and his government have been holding talks all week in order to decide whether to extend a weekend lockdown to the Paris region and other hard-hit areas, or whether to opt for other measures to slow down the epidemic spread.

UPDATE: What new Covid restrictions will Macron decide to take in France?

So far three areas of France have been placed under a weekend lockdown: Nice and a large stretch of the French Riviera, the northern town of Dunkirk and the Pas-de-Calais département, a bit further south.

The weekend lockdown imposes a complete ‘stay home’ order at the weekend, with only essential trips out of the home allowed and attestations needed for all trips. The 6pm-6am curfew remains in place during the week.

READ ALSO What are the rules for the parts of France on weekend lockdown?

But how effective are these measures?

Initial results are encouraging, albeit modest.

Three and a half weeks since the first lockdown weekend entered into effect in the Alpes-Maritimes département encompassing Nice and the French Riviera, the incidence rate has dropped from nearing 530 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants to 446.7, according to the latest public health data.

In Pas-de-Calais, where the measure was imposed a week later, the incidence rate is still rising but has slowed down its rise and is currently at 407.4 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

The graphic below illustrates the change in these two départements’ incidence rates compared to the rest of France.

Graphic: Guillaume Rozier, CovidTracker

The rather steep drop in Alpes-Maritimes began around February 20th, before the first weekend lockdown, which seemingly indicates that the drop preceded the new measure.

However when controlling for the number of tests, which increased over the same period, the data shows a visible drop in the week that followed the first seven days after the first weekend lockdown in the areas of Alpes-Maritimes, indicating that the measure did have an impact.

In Dunkirk, which imposed a weekend lockdown at the same time as Nice and the 62 other towns and cities in Alpes-Maritimes, the incidence rate has also dropped over the same period.

While Public health agency Santé Publique France does not publish exact incidence rates on a town or commune level, the latest estimates provided by local authorities put the rate at 673, down from over 1,000 before the first weekend lockdown.

What about hospitals?

Hospital occupancy rates remain pretty much unchanged, according to French data scientist Guillaume Rozier.

“Perhaps (they are) decreasing slightly,” Rozier said in a tweet, but “the curve is too unstable to draw conclusions.”

Graphic: Guillaume Rozier, CovidTracker

Alpes-Maritimes, Dunkirk and Pas-de-Calais this week all reported high intensive care ward occupancy rates of 111 per cent, 100 percent and 120 percent respectively, meaning Covid patients effectively had filled up their ICUs.

Previous stages of the epidemic have shown that the impact on hospital occupancy usually comes several weeks after case numbers begin to fall, which means that the weekend lockdown could  soon alleviate pressure on hospitals in the areas concerned.

However it seems clear that this is not a ‘quick fix’ solution.

The Paris region has incidence rates approaching 500 in several départements, of which suburb Seine-Saint-Denis reported the worst of all: 505.8 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants on March 14th, according to the latest data published.

Hospitals in the area are also under severe pressure, with non-emergency surgery cancelled and some seriously ill patients transferred to other regions.

President Macron hinted on Wednesday that a weekend lockdown might not be the best suited measure in Île-de-France, where commuters travel regularly between Paris with its suburbs and where many – especially in poverty-stricken areas like some parts of Seine-Saint-Denis – live in small apartments without access to a garden or greenery nearby.

The other option apparently under consideration is a short but complete lockdown. This measure has so far not been tried in France – the first and second lockdowns were nationwide and lasted two months and six weeks respectively, so it is hard to know how effective a short, regional lockdown would be.

Member comments

  1. Boggy, did you actually read the article? Why comment when you haven’t? Someone has actually researched and written an article for us. Make good use of it while you’re here.

    1. Oh no, that wouldn’t be very British now would it? It’s important to ignore ‘researched’ information have a cursory look at Sky News and get ranting…

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French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

After the seismic decision of the US Supreme Court on Friday, French MPs are calling for the right to abortion in France to be protected by the constitution.

French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

Lawmakers from French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party are to propose a parliamentary bill on Saturday that would enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution. 

The move comes after the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” decision on Friday.

“In France we guarantee and advance the rights of women. We protect them,” said Aurore Bergé – the head of Renaissance in the Assemblée nationale and one of the key sponsors of the bill. 

Another co-sponsor, Marie-Pierre Rixain tweeted: “What happens in elsewhere cannot happen in France. We must protect the right to abortion for future generations. 

In 2018 and 2019, Emmanuel Macron’s party – which back then was known as La République en Marche – refused to back bills proposed by left-wing party, La France Insoumise, to enshrine abortion rights into the constitution. 

In a Saturday interview with France Inter, Bergé suggested that the success of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National during parliamentary elections earlier this month had created a sense of newfound urgency. 

She described the far-right MPs as “fierce opponents of women’s access to abortion” and said it was important “to take no risk” in securing it. 

READ MORE France’s Macron condemns US abortion ruling

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has come out in support of the bill. 

The left-wing opposition block, NUPES, also backs it and had planned to propose an identical piece legislation of its own on Monday. 

Macron is seeking parliamentary allies to pass reforms after his formation lost its majority in legislative elections earlier this month.

The legal timeframe to terminate a pregnancy in France was extended from 12 to 14 weeks in the last legislature.

Changing the constitution requires the National Assembly and Senate to adopt the same text, then a three-fifths majority of parliament sitting in congress. The other option is a referendum.