STRATEGY: Many epidemiologists recommend tightening the restrictions and an additional turn of the screw cannot be ruled out to combat the coronavirus epidemic
France is entering a decisive week under the pressure of the third wave of the Covid-19 epidemic, the outbreak of which is causing the increase in alarm signals at the hospital and calls for stricter measures. Saturation of hospitals, outdated schools: will there be an additional turn of the screw this week? “Nothing is decided “, replies Emmanuel Macron in the Sunday Journal.
“For the coming days, we will look at the effectiveness of the braking measures and we will take, if necessary, those which are necessary”, underlines the Head of State in this interview carried out Friday evening, while the health situation is of again qualified as “critical” by the executive. A defence council is to be held on Wednesday to decide on a possible toughening of the measures.
4,791 patients in intensive care on Saturday
Because the scenario anticipated in January by epidemiologists has proven to be correct: the epidemic progressed almost everywhere in France in March, pushed by the English variant, considered more contagious and more virulent. The number of patients in intensive care rose to 4,791 on Saturday evening, approaching the peak of the second wave in the fall (4,903). A total of 94,492 people have died since the start of the epidemic.
Since midnight Friday, three departments – Rhône, Aube and Nièvre – have been added to the 16 others, including Paris and its region, subject to more severe restrictive measures: no travel more than 10 km without exemption, no exit from the territory without a compelling reason, shops closed and half-classes in high school. At the same time, 24 other departments are under increased vigilance. In the rest of the country, a curfew is in effect from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. Everywhere, bars, restaurants, cultural places remain closed.
A “disaster medical situation”
“The battle for the next few days is simple. Pragmatism and adapted response to the virus, braking measures in particular intended to protect caregivers and vulnerable people and a general mobilization to roll out our plan of attack on the vaccine, ”anticipates Emmanuel Macron. But in the field, the alarm signals are multiplying.
In Ile-de-France, 41 crisis medical directors of the AP-HP (Public Assistance – Hospitals of Paris) evoke a “disaster medicine situation”, saying they are preparing to have to “sort out patients in order to save as many lives as possible ”, in a column published by the JDD. “In the next fortnight”, say the signatories, “we already know that our support capacities will be exceeded”.
Schools under pressure
In National Education, testimonies follow one another to relate the growing difficulties in making schools operate, teaching and administrative staff themselves being affected by the coronavirus epidemic. In Seine-Saint-Denis, a particularly affected Ile-de-France department, elected officials have once again sounded the alarm. “For several weeks and every day more, the health situation in schools (in the department) has deteriorated. More and more students, teachers, municipal staff (…) are infected with the virus. They can no longer carry out their missions, ”warned five mayors of the department on Saturday in Le Parisien.
Among 0-14-year-olds the incidence rate increased by 31% from March 15 to 21 compared to the previous week, according to the epidemiological point published Friday by the health agency. Unlike many of its European neighbours, France refuses to close its schools even if the appearance of a patient in a class now results in its closure in the reconfigured departments. Many epidemiologists recommend tightening restrictions.
Vaccination offered as the only hope
And elected officials are asking for the extension of vaccination, open on Saturday to over 70s without comorbidities. “It would be a bad political and health choice”, for Emmanuel Macron. “If I opened up to all age groups at once, there would be social and territorial inequalities in access to the vaccine,” he says.
While nearly 3 million additional doses are expected this week, the president is betting on the deployment of vaccination “mega-centres” to keep his commitment to “offer a vaccine to all adults who want it before the end of the summer”.