France puts 20 regions on alert as Covid-19 image worsens
The “will he / won’t he?” the debate has been raging for weeks – would President Emmanuel Macron put France in another national lockdown?
France has reported high but stable infection rates (around 20,000 new cases daily) since December, but not as many as other EU countries and, although hospital admissions are high, it has reported a cases drop in mid-February, suggesting the current 6 p.m. national curfew had held out.
However, the question really has been how to act swiftly against the English variant, B.1.1.7. version of Covid-19 which sent the UK an increase of more than 100,000 cases and which France expected to suffer at some point.
The situation has become critical in the north of France in Dunkirk this week and in the south, in the coastal town of Nice, near the Italian border. Nice and the surrounding area were stranded over the weekend of February 22. Its incidence rate is 700 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, more than three times the national average, as indicated Local.
Dunkirk was locked out over the weekend two days later – it has an incidence rate of 900 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people, nearly nine times the national average. Health Minister Olivier Véran said during his visit to the city on Tuesday “the epidemic is worsening across the country”.
Tonight, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced that 20 other regions of the country are now on “high alert”, including Paris and Marseille, and would likely suffer lockdown measures from March 6 unless the situation improves .
The current situation in France
On Sunday January 31, France closed its borders to anyone arriving from outside the EU / Schengen area and it also closed large shopping centers of over 20,000 m2. Restaurants, bars and cafes have been closed since October, with the exception of the take-out service.
France is currently under a national 6 p.m. curfew and recently announced that all arrivals to the country must have evidence of a negative Covid-19 test, passed within the past 72 hours. This restriction applies to people traveling from outside the EU or from EU countries if arriving by air or sea. It cannot apply to arrivals from EU countries traveling by road as this would be too difficult to verify as most borders are open between EU countries.
France had previously extended its state of emergency, established on March 24, 2020, and it was again extended until June 2021. As reported by Local, as part of the emergency, the government is able to introduce drastic measures that significantly reduce daily life, such as placing the country under the first and second lockdowns as it did in 2020.
Local reported that when France’s second lockdown was implemented in October, new cases were at 50,000 a day and hospital intensive care units at 95% capacity. As of Tuesday, January 26, the weekly average daily infection rate was below 20,000 and the hospital bed occupancy rate was just below 60%. As of Wednesday February 25, the occupancy rate was 67%.
France has criticized the fact that its vaccination effort has been very slow to start but Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on January 23 that he had reached the million mark much earlier than expected. By January 28, this number had risen to 1,349,000 people, or 2% of the French population. As of Wednesday, February 17, that number was 2,365,232.