Overwhelmed Paris hospitals ‘may soon be forced to turn patients away’ as Covid cases spiral

Paris hospitals are fast approaching saturation point because of snowballing Covid admissions and may be forced to turn patients away, top officials warned on Sunday.

Overwhelmed Paris hospitals 'may soon be forced to turn patients away' as Covid cases spiral
Photo: Christophe Archambault/AFP

“There’s a feeling of anger at finding oneself in a situation that will force you to do disaster medicine,” said senior Paris hospitals official Remi Salomon.

“In 10 days, 15 days or three weeks we may be overwhelmed,” he told the all-news channel BFMTV, pleading for a new lockdown, including for schools.

Also on Sunday, 41 hospital crisis directors put their names to an open letter saying: “We cannot remain silent without betraying the Hippocratic oath we once  made.”

Published in the weekly Journal du Dimanche, the letter said they were preparing for decisions on which patients should be granted access to intensive care.

“This triage will concern all patients, Covid and non-Covid, in particular for adult patients’ access to critical care,” they wrote.

They said they had “never known such a situation, even during the worst (terror) attacks suffered in recent years.”

They noted that such selections had already begun, with hospitals being forced to postpone surgical procedures.

“These cancellations will intensify in the coming days, with only vital emergencies being spared soon,” they warned.

Later on Sunday, Health Minister Olivier Véran met with the crisis officials, saying he was “acutely aware of the impact on ICUs and wishes to keep them at their maximum to avoid more and more terrible choices for care providers,” according to a member of his team.

The government may have to take “supplementary measures” soon, the source told AFP.

In the daily Le Monde, nine emergency room doctors demanded more accountability from the executive, writing in an op-ed: “By making care givers decide which patient should live and which patient should die, without stating it clearly, the government is shirking responsibility in a hypocritical way.

“It is time for the executive to clearly and publicly assume the health consequences of its political decisions.”

Salomon predicted in his BFMTV interview that pressure on hospitals will likely ease by May or June thanks to the vaccination drive, while adding that the third wave in France could be “the most violent… but probably the last”.

The Paris regional health authority ARS asked hospitals to set a goal of making 2,200 beds available for Covid patients.

An earlier target of 1,800 beds is expected to be exceeded within days.

France counts a total of 27,712 Covid patients currently in hospital, of whom 1,017 were admitted Sunday.

In the past 24 hours, 131 patients died of Covid in hospital, compared with 194 over the previous 24 hours.

Overall Covid deaths in France total 94,623.

Member comments

  1. Get you finger out Macron and show some backbone. Lock the country down. Forget about Easter and trying to save what’s left of your political career. People’s lives come first. Unfortunately one has to make hard decisions throughout their lives but you seem to be incapable of making any.

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France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test

France's public health body has outlined how Covid-19 rules will change on February 1st, including an end to compulsory self-isolation after a positive test result.

France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test

Starting on February 1st, Covid rules will relax in France as the country ends compulsory isolation for those who test positive for the virus.

However, those travelling from China to France will still be required to agree to a random screening upon arrival and to isolate in the case of a positive Covid-19 test result. Travellers aged 11 and over coming from China must also provide a negative test result (less tan 48 hours) prior to boarding and those aged six and over must agree to wear a mask on board flights. These regulations – which was set to last until January 31st – is set to remain in place until February 15th.

The French public health body (The Direction générale de la santé or DGS)  announced the change on Saturday in a decree published in the “Journal Officiel” outlining the various ways the body will loosen previous coronavirus restrictions.

READ MORE: What Covid rules and recommendations remain for visiting France?

Those who were in contact with someone who tested positive – ie a contact cases – will also no longer be required to take a test, though the public health body stressed that both testing after contact and isolating after receiving a positive test remain recommended.

Previously, even asymptomatic people who had been in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 were required to test on the second day after being notified that they were a “contact-case”.

These changes will take effect on February 1st.

READ MORE: What changes in France in February 2023?

The DGS also said that website SI-DEP, which records test results, will remain in operation until June 30th, however starting in February it will only collect personal data with the express permission of the patient.

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Additionally, the French government announced that sick leave procedures for people with Covid-19 will return to normal on February 1st – this means that those who test positive for Covid-19 will have the three-day wait period before daily sick benefits are required to be paid, as is usually the case. Previously, people with Covid-19 could expect daily sick benefits to begin at the start of their sick leave period (arrêt maladie in French).  

READ MORE: How sick leave pay in France compares to other countries in Europe

Covid tests are still available on walk-in basis from most pharmacies are are free to people who are fully vaccinated and registered in the French health system. Unvaccinated people, or visitors to France, have to pay up to a maximum of €22 for an antigen test of €49 for a PCR test. 

If you recently tested positive for Covid-19 in France – or you suspect you may have contracted Covid-19 – you can find some information for how to proceed here.

In explaining the changes that will begin in February, the French public health body also noted a drop in Covid-19 infections in the past month. As of January 30th, approximately 3,800 people in France had tested positive in the previous 24 hours for the coronavirus – which represents a decrease from the averages of 20,000 new cases per day about one month ago.