COVID-19: France on a downward slope, but still too gentle

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PARIS | A glimmer of hope? The COVID-19 epidemic seems to be on a downward slope in France, with a drop in contamination, but still too fragile to quickly relax the restrictive measures.

• Read also: All developments in the COVID-19 pandemic

For five days, “we have started a decrease in the epidemic” of coronavirus, which has killed more than 100,000 people for a year, estimated the Minister of Health Olivier Véran in an interview with the regional daily Le Télégramme.

Mr. Véran relies on a decrease in contamination: “we had risen to 40,000, today we are around 33,000 cases on average every day”.

“We can clearly see a notable drop in a large number of regions,” confirmed epidemiologist Antoine Flahaut on RTL radio.

The reproduction rate (R0) of the virus, a key indicator corresponding to the number of people infected for a single patient, has “fallen below 0.9”, notes this doctor, predicting that the decline will increase in the coming days. .

Continue the “efforts”

But the end of the “high plateau” on which the country has been perched for weeks is not so close: “the descent is not yet fast enough”, warns Olivier Véran, speaking of a “fragile” situation.

The minister calls on the French to “continue” their “efforts” so that the new restrictions decided in mid-March continue to bear fruit.

The tension on the health system is not weakening: France had 31,214 hospitalized patients, including almost 6,000 in intensive care – a figure closely monitored by the health authorities who want to avoid congestion in hospitals. The level is lower than the peak of the first wave in April 2020 (7000), but higher than that of the second.

Contaminations, even in decline, are at a level too high to curb the circulation of the virus, say experts.

“It would be too premature to open the country today. France is on the right track and must do everything to keep “this course”, warned Professor Flahaut. In his view, the current semi-confinement regime should be extended by three weeks.

However, the school holidays soon end and elementary school students (between 6 and 11 years old) must return to class on April 26, middle and high school students on May 3.

“We will then be able to consider a certain number of measures to be reduced from mid-May”, Olivier Véran told Le Télégramme, saying he was “open to the idea of ​​a territory-by-territory approach in the lifting of the security measures. braking”.

Emmanuel Macron has set for mid-May the reopening of the first terraces of bars and restaurants and cultural places, promising a strict sanitary protocol, but without setting any sanitary condition, nor a maximum number of contaminations as he had done in autumn (5000).

The lifting of restrictions is hoped for with impatience mixed with concern by traders or restaurateurs, the latter cumulating about eight months of closure since the start of the pandemic more than a year ago.