The Prime Minister and the Minister of Health detailed France’s strategy for fighting the coronavirus. Resuscitation beds, masks, tests: we take stock.
“Greater transparency”: this is one of the pillars that the government has set for its management of the health crisis. This Saturday 28th March 2020, this objective was once again put to the test of the French, while the coronavirus continues to claim more and more victims.
To date, in France, 319 people have died in the hospital in the past 24 hours. A total of 2,314 people have died since the start of the epidemic. The health authorities also identify 37,575 cases positive for the coronavirus.
“The fight is just beginning. The first 15 days of April will be more difficult than the past two weeks ”: Prime Minister Edouard Philippe carried out the decryption exercise for the coronavirus epidemic this Saturday 28th March 2020.
— Gouvernement (@gouvernementFR) March 28, 2020
What to remember from ministerial intervention
Accompanied by a team of scientists, the Minister of Health Olivier Véran and the Director-General of Health Jérôme Salomon, Edouard Philippe spoke this evening to take stock of the situation of the coronavirus.
Objective: to clarify the strategy adopted by France accordingly. “We want to tell the French where we are and where we are going, what we know and don’t know,” said the chief executive.
Here’s what to remember from this speech.
— Gouvernement (@gouvernementFR) March 28, 2020
How dangerous is coronavirus?
Karine Lacombe, the head of the infectious diseases department at Saint-Antoine hospital, wanted to recall how dangerous the coronavirus is.
First of all, it is an extremely contagious virus, “between two and three times more than the flu,” she said. “It is a virus that spreads very quickly,” adds Edouard Philippe.
“We double the number of positive cases every three to four days.”
As a reminder, the virus is mainly transmitted by micro-droplets, expelled through the nose or mouth, when a person coughs or sneezes for example. It can also withstand several hours to several days depending on the surface or the humidity of the environment.
Then, continues the scientist, in addition to being “contagious before being symptomatic”, the coronavirus is dangerous by the proportion of patients (15%) to experience health complications once contaminated. “It’s a virus that spares no one,” she adds. Because if the majority of cases are over the age of 70, the median number of hospitalized patients is finally 58 years.
Where do the figures shared by the government come from?
The national surveillance system is based on “three reliable sources,” said Jérôme Salomon, the Director-General of Health. The government first relies on screening tests carried out directly on contaminated French people. These tests then go to the laboratory, from where they go back up to the health authorities.
In a second step, the daily hospital monitoring is added to the health assessment. More than 6,000 hospitals report the number of admissions, seriously ill, deaths and even cured patients every day.
Finally, it is from data from Public Health France that the government figures come from. These data come from the use of care in cities, via feedback from volunteer doctors or tests carried out by laboratories.
However, nuanced Jérôme Salomon, France is experiencing a certain delay regarding screening, a week of incubation was often necessary for the appearance of the first symptoms, at which time infected people will consult and be identified.
A regular weekly INSEE publication must arrive “from next week” to report the mortality recorded over the previous week, “from civil status data”.
Data from Public Health France will be in free access from the government website and updated daily, said the Director-General of Health.
What strategy has the government adopted?
For Edouard Philippe, France’s strategy to deal with the spread of the coronavirus is based on two pillars: “increasing the capacity of the intensive care unit” and “flattening the curve” of the number of cases.
To date, France has 5,000 beds in its intensive care units. “We have to be able to constantly adapt the capacity of the beds and the confinement to regional reality. That is why we have recently moved patients to areas where beds are still available, “said the Prime Minister.
Among the objectives announced by Olivier Véran: increasing the number of resuscitation capacity to 14,500 beds for the month of April 2020, compared to 10,000 beds in March. But also the strengthening of nursing staff. 22,000 reservists have been registered since the beginning of March, welcomed the Minister of Health, bringing to 40,000 the total number of reservists available.
“Each day we register 1,000 additional volunteers.”
How many masks are needed?
Regarding the shortage of masks, a point often criticized in recent days, the Minister of Health said that 36 million masks were “restocked and sent throughout the country this week”.
National production was increased “drastically” to the tune of eight million masks per week. 24 domestic producers have been designated to produce 480,000 masks per day “in the coming days”. France has also ordered a billion masks from China, the main manufacturer in the world.
At the end of next week, a new assessment will be made by the government. Similarly, a weekly indicator will be put in place. “We will communicate transparently on these figures and draw the consequences,” said Edouard Philippe.
What about Ehpad?
In France, 7,000 establishments where nearly 700,000 elderly people live are affected. “They are the most fragile and most at risk from coronavirus,” said Olivier Véran. Hence the activation of the ” blue plan” of the Ministry of Health .
Already, visits are prohibited and isolation in a room in case of circulation of the virus. But “we must go even further in protecting the elderly” by preparing for “individual isolation to protect each resident,” added the minister.
Staff working in nursing homes will be “tested first for the virus” and their outings will now be “very limited” .
“France will not leave frail elderly people by the wayside.”
Is there a treatment today?
If research continues to make progress every day, for the time being, no specific treatment has proven its worth in the world, underlined Olivier Véran. 13 clinical studies are currently underway, and 16 new ones are expected to arrive soon. For the time being, “seven treatments are being studied,” he added.
France has also ordered 5 million rapid tests (in the sense that they obtain results after fifteen minutes), which should arrive “soon” according to the minister.
Thanks to them, the number of daily tests will increase by 30,000 by the end of April. At the end of June, 100,000 tests could finally be carried out every day, compared to 12,000 currently.
Essential compliance with the measures
For Arnaud Fontanet, an epidemiologist at the Institut Pasteur, the decision is final: respecting barrier gestures, social distancing, limiting movement and confinement is the best solution “to relieve intensive care services”.
Reducing contact, therefore, helps stem the very easy spread of the virus by secondary transmission. Because, if the disease is mild in 85% of cases, on average, one infected person can infect three others, said Karine Lacombe.
Yesterday, the government chose to follow the advice of the scientific council by extending the confinement period by two additional weeks , that is to say until April 15, 2020. The first effects of confinement should also be visible ” at the end of next week ” , according to Arnaud Fontanet.
Il est clair que nous n’en sommes encore qu’au début de la vague épidémique. Avec l’accord du président de la République, j’annonce le renouvellement de la période de confinement pour deux semaines supplémentaires à compter de mardi prochain, soit jusqu’au mercredi 15 avril.
— Edouard Philippe (@EPhilippePM) March 27, 2020