Coronavirus: Masks, Confinement, Hospitalisations… How France Manages the Emergency

General News
A policeman protected by a mask in Rennes, March 21, 2020.

Saturday 21st March 2020, the Minister of Health announced the order for 250 million masks and will discuss the extension or not of confinement Monday 23rd.

Faced with the coronavirus epidemic which has already killed 562 people in the country, France is managing the emergency: equipping its caregivers with masks and stemming the ever-increasing number of hospitalizationsBut experts are also working on the following: how long will the French have to stay cloistered at home?

The Minister of Health Olivier Véran announced Saturday that he had seized the scientific council created on the Covid-19 to decide on “the duration” and “the extent” necessary of the confinement, for the moment, decreed until the end of March in less.

Read also: Coronavirus: 562 deaths and 14,459 confirmed cases, update on the situation in France

250 million masks ordered

The opinion of the council is expected for Monday. But everything suggests that the confinement will be prolonged, as in Italy, which records the most deaths in the world (almost 5000, in front of China where the epidemic started).

The government has also ordered more than 250 million masks, the shortage of which weighs on caregivers.

The “state stock” is currently only 86 million masks, for an expected consumption of “24 million masks per week,” said Minister of Health Olivier Véran.

500,000 masks per day for nursing home staff

For the next two weeks, he said, priority will be given to health workers, in town as well as in hospitals, and people working with the elderly, including 500,000 masks per day for staff of Ehpad.

The Minister, refusing to enter into a “controversy”, recalled that these strategic stocks “have been reduced year after year” for ten years, with the beginning of the epidemic a total of “117 million masks”. The government was aware that the situation “was going to be a difficulty,” he said.


He reiterated, however, not to consider the widespread use of the mask in the population, recalling in particular that the WHO does not recommend it. As for the professions in contact with the public who demand it (law enforcement, distribution, etc.), again the government will consult its scientific council.

On the ground, many local elected officials have imposed measures to tighten confinement, with curfews decreed in Béziers (Hérault), Vallauris, Menton (Alpes-Maritimes) and Roquebrune-sur-Argens (Var), from 10 pm to 5am, as well as in Charleville-Mézières (Ardennes) and Perpignan (from 8 pm to 6 am).

The mayor of Montpellier has also introduced this curfew, accompanied by the closure of food markets. Public transport is now reserved there for working users.

Between 30,000 and 90,000 people infected in France

In Paris, Anne Hidalgo called on Saturday to “move towards much more severe confinement”. She defended the outdoor food markets of the capital, but “accompanying the opening of drastic measures”, in an interview with the Parisian .

“The situation will continue to worsen before the effects of containment have their effect,” said Véran. He estimates the number of people infected in France at a wide range, “between 30,000 and 90,000”, due to the many people with little or no symptoms.

New diagnostic method

Regarding the use of tests, which have gradually been reserved for certain categories of populations (frail, elderly, pregnant women, etc.), the Minister assured that the authorities were preparing to be able to “multiply them by the time we get up containment “. Within particular “hope” to see the development of “a new, simpler and faster diagnostic method”.

According to the latest figures from the ministry, the epidemic caused the death of 562 people, or 112 more for the day on Saturday, and resulted in the hospitalisation of 6,172 patients, including 1,525 in intensive care (half under the age of 60 years).

The seven regions most affected are Grand Est, Corsica, Ile-de-France, Hauts-de-France, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Auvergne-Rhône Alpes and now Nouvelle-Aquitaine.

“Faced with the urgency and the scale of the epidemic”, particularly in Ile-de-France, the hospitals of Paris (AP-HP) appeal to “medical and paramedical professionals available in the coming weeks” to strengthen the teams of its 39 hospitals.

Coronavirus: deaths in France. (© AFP /)
Coronavirus: deaths in France. (© AFP /)

Towards a state of a health emergency

The National Assembly voted Sunday at dawn a bill allowing the establishment of a “state of health emergency”, after a bitter debate on the supervision of this exceptional regime, and l ” added penalties for non-compliance with confinement.

The Senate will meet on Sunday afternoon, also in close formation, to re-examine it.

The Parliament had definitively adopted the financial aspect of the emergency measures against the coronavirus on Friday. Combined with the emergency bill passed at first reading in the Senate, the text provides 45 billion euros to help companies in difficulty and finance the partial unemployment of employees.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced on Saturday the general suspension of the waiting day in the event of sick leave for the duration of the state of a health emergency.

84% of French people worried about the epidemic

The government’s response received the approval of a majority of French people. They are 55% to trust him to “deal effectively with coronavirus”, and 57% to “help companies in difficulty”, according to an Ifop survey for the JDD published on Sunday.

According to this study, 84% of those polled said they were worried about the coronavirus epidemic, ten points more than last week.

France, where applause now resounds every evening around 8 p.m. for caregivers, is also still working to organize the return of around 130,000 of its nationals stranded abroad.

Returning expatriates will have direct access to Social Security: the National Assembly voted on the night of Saturday to Sunday to suspend the waiting period of three months usually imposed on French people after a long stay abroad.

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