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France sees spike in Covid cases as restrictions ease

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France sees spike in Covid cases as restrictions ease
Falling intensive care unit capacity has allowed the French government to loosen Covid rules, even as case numbers increase. (Photo by Nicolas TUCAT / AFP)

Monday marks a major relaxation of Covid rules in France - but case numbers appear to be rising again.

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Covid case numbers are picking up in France, just as the country relaxes its pandemic restrictions.

The latest official data dates to Thursday, March 10th, when the seven-day case average reached 60,323 - a 16.5 percent rise compared to the week before. The incidence rate is rising among all age groups. 

"Covid is not falling, it is even increasing," said Health Minister Olivier Véran last week, warning of a "rebound" of the pandemic. 

A sub-variant of Omicron, known as BA2, is thought to be behind the increase in cases. 

In an interview with Le Parisien, Prime Minister Jean Castex said that this strain was "more transmissible than the initial Omicron, but does not seem more dangerous."

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Covid case numbers in France are still a long way off the peak of the fifth wave, but have seen an uptick over the past weeks. (Source: Covid Tracker)

The pick-up in case numbers comes as France relaxes a number of pandemic restrictions, including the suspension of the vaccine pass and the scrapping of mask rules. 

READ MORE How has France relaxed its Covid rules?

Some feel that the loosening of the rules is too soon. 

"All of this feels too soon to me," tweeted one of our readers.

"I reckon we'll be back wearing masks before Easter," replied another. 

The good news is that for now at least, admission into intensive care units due to Covid-19 is still falling after reaching unprecedented highs in mid-January during the fifth wave. 

While Véran noted that this was an encouraging sign, he said that it was vital that health authorities remain "extremely vigilant." 

The 7-day average of daily admissions into intensive care units with Covid stood at 103 on Thursday - a 12 percent decline on the week before.

The 7-day average of daily admissions into French intensive care units with Covid stood at 103 on Thursday - a 12 percent decline on the week before. (Source: CovidTracker)

The lifting of restrictions has gone ahead as scheduled because intensive care unit capacity, which currently stands at 37 percent, is within the target limits set by the government. 

"The improvement in hospitals and our high vaccine coverage lead us to carry on with the lifting of measures," said Prime Minister Jean Castex on Saturday. 

He called on the elderly and people with pre-existing health conditions to continue wearing masks in busy indoor spaces. 

France is not alone in experiencing such an uptick, with neighbouring countries like Germany, Italy, Switzerland and the UK all seeing mini-spikes of their own. 

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tom.bolton 2022/03/14 18:55
Covid is not going away - it will be with us forever in some form or other. But we need to learn to live with it. Fortunately BA2 is mild - so we can probably be careful and live with it. Just because we have the choice to not wear masks or show a vaccine pass does not mean we should stop doing the basics of social distancing and washing your hands. However we have got to the stage where you need a test to know if you have covid, as symptoms are so mild so that is good news

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