MAP: Where are the worst hit Covid regions in France?

Despite a high vaccine coverage, the number of Covid cases reported in France is accelerating as are deaths and hospitalisations. But there are significant regional disparities.

The famous arc of Ardèche - the French  département with the highest Covid incident rate.
The famous arc of Ardèche - the French département with the highest Covid incident rate. (Photo by PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP)

Covid 19 cases continue to soar in France.

On Tuesday, health minister Olivier Véran announced that there had been 47,000 new cases detected in the previous 24 hours. Case numbers are often high on Mondays and Tuesdays due to a lag in reporting from the weekend, but the weekly average – considered a more reliable way to measure the data – also shows an increase of 60 from the previous week.

The daily average of cases is now 29,428. 

Between November 21st-27th, there were 307 Covid cases per 100,000 people. In Paris, this figure climbs to 435 per 100,000. The official data points to significant regional differences in this incidence rate. 

Weekly cases per 100,000 people in France. Purple indicates the worst hit regions. Map:

Worst affected

  • Ardèche has an incidence rate of 598 per 100,000 people – the highest of any département in France. 
  • The Hautes-Pyrénées, a mountainous department in the southeast of France has an incidence rate of 499 per 100,000 people, 
  • The incidence rate in Jura, eastern France, is also much higher than the national average, reaching 488 per 100,000. 

It is worth noting that many of the départements with higher than average incidence rates cover vast rural areas. The small population sizes means that a single case of Covid detected has a greater impact on the départemental percentage. 

Least affected 

Officially, the French overseas territories of Mayotte (22 cases per 100,000 people) and Guyane (89 per 100,000) have the lowest infection rates. It is possible that the relatively youthful populations of these places, the climate and a lack of testing are behind these low figures. 

  • In Lozère, a landlocked département in southern France has the lowest incidence rate on the mainland with 125 cases per 100,000. Lozère is one of the most sparesely-populated départements in France.
  • Deux-Sèvres in western France has an incidence rate of 141 per 100,000 people. 
  • Calvados in northern France has an incidence rate of 145 per 100,000. 

Hospital pressure

Although France’s high vaccination rate is protecting many people, rates of hospitalisation and deaths are also climbing.

The daily average of Covid-related admissions to intensive care is now 160, up 40 percent on the previous week, while deaths stand at 70 per day, an increase of 28 percent on the previous week. In total 38 percent of intensive care beds are now occupied by Covid patients. 

How is the government doing? 

The French government recently revised its policy on booster shots, the health pass, masks and testing – you can find a full breakdown of the new rules here.

A representative poll of more than 1,000 people, conducted by Ifop-Fiducial and released on Tuesday, found that 43 percent of the population approved of French President Emmanuel Macron’s handling of the pandemic.

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French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The French parliament has passed the controversial health bill which updates France's emergency provisions for Covid - and allows the return of negative Covid tests for all travellers at the border, if the health situation requires.

French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The Loi sanitaire was eventually approved by the Assemblée nationale on Monday after several variations and amendments added on its passage through the Assemblée and the Senate. It was voted on and passed Tuesday, May 26th. 

The bill replaces the State of Health Emergency that has been in place since March 2020 and puts in place provision for government actions should the health situation deteriorate or a dangerous new variant of Covid emerge.

The original text had a provision for the return of the health pass at the border, but this has now been scrapped and instead the government has the right to make a negative Covid test a condition of entry for all travellers.

At present negative tests are required only for unvaccinated travellers, and the new test requirement would only be put into force if a dangerous new variant emerges.

The government will be able to implement the testing rule by decree for two months, but a further parliamentary debate would be required to extend it beyond that.

From August 1st the State of Health Emergency will be formally repealed, which means that the government no longer has the power to introduce major limits on personal freedom such as lockdowns or curfews without first having a debate in parliament.

The bill also allows for an extension of data collection required for the SI-DEP epidemic monitoring tools such as the contact tracing app Tous Anti Covid until June 30th, 2023 and Contact Covid until January 31st, 2023. 

The most controversial measure in the bill was the reinstatement of healthcare workers who were suspended for being unvaccinated – this actually only involves a couple of hundred people but medical unions and the medical regulator Haut Autorité de Santé (HAS) have both been against it.

However the bill allows for the eventual lifting of the requirement for Covid vaccination for healthcare workers, when the HAS judges it is no longer necessary and once the requirement is lifted, the suspended healthcare workers will be reinstated “immediately”.

The bill was approved on Monday evening with 184 votes to 149, the result of a joint committee that was able to harmonise the versions of the Assembly and the Senate.

The final vote passed the Senate on Tuesday.