PARSI | Eight new departments in France advance their curfew to 6 p.m. on Sunday, a measure contested, but deemed necessary in an attempt to avoid a rebound in the COVID-19 epidemic while the circulation of the new British variant worries.
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These eight departments of the center, the East and the South-East, which will be joined on Tuesday by two others, are added to fifteen departments mainly in the East already subject for a week to a curfew at 6 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. on the rest of the territory. France has a total of 100 departments.
This measure is vilified by most local elected officials, doubting its effectiveness in terms of health and fearing its economic repercussions, but defended by the government, which is trying to avoid a “mad race” of the epidemic on the territory.
In Marseille (south), where seven new cases linked to the English variant of COVID-19, deemed to be more contagious, have been discovered, the viral situation is “worrying”, said Sunday the mayor of the city, Benoît Payan.
“Now every minute counts to stem the spread of the English strain”, he warned, calling on the government to “intensify (r) airport controls” and asking “ministers to put in place drastic measures concerning entries and exits from the territory ”.
In the morning, the Minister of Health Olivier Veran reaffirmed “to do everything possible to prevent the spread of this variant”.
The week which opens promises to be decisive for assessing the threat of this version of the coronavirus on French territory. The impact of the holiday season should also begin to be known.
On the vaccine front, after strong criticism of the slowness at the start of the campaign, the country should “exceed 100,000” vaccinated with BioNTech / Pfizer doses, the minister stressed, saying he was calm in the face of “false controversies” .
Regarding the vaccine of the American Moderna, which has just been validated by the health authorities, France will receive Monday “a delivery of 50,000 first doses”, which will be “dispatched” by Wednesday in areas where the virus circulates the most, he added on radio Europe 1.
The leader of the radical left, Jean-Luc Mélenchon said Sunday he was “not reassured” by the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine used in France against COVID-19, while affirming that it is “not antivaccine”.
He said he was “outraged” that France is “one of the only great powers” to have developed “no vaccine” to date. French laboratories Sanofi and British GSK announced on Friday that their anti-COVID vaccine would not be ready until the end of 2021, after less good results than expected in the first clinical trials.
The eight departments affected by the progress of the curfew are Cher, Allier, Côte-d’Or, Haut-Rhin and Bas-Rhin, as well as Vaucluse, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and the Bouches-du-Rhône. They will be joined on Tuesday by Var and Drôme.
In Strasbourg (east), the streets of the city center were quickly deserted at the end of the afternoon. Two minutes before the fateful hour of 6 p.m., Michaël Demuynck was still rushing to sell his last two goblets of mulled wine to take away, before closing his delicatessen.
“We have no choice, we adapt. Normally, from 6 pm to 8 pm, I still make a fifth of my day in turnover, ”explains the one for whom this advanced curfew is“ bad economic news ”.
“We will not escape”
Prime Minister Jean Castex on Saturday defended “difficult measures, but necessary in the face of an epidemic (which) is not weakening, or which is strengthening in certain areas”.
In Marseille, the authorities justify their decision after the discovery at the end of December of a “probable” cluster of the British variant within a French family of five, residing in the United Kingdom and coming for the holidays.
How far does the variant travel in France? The health authorities should start to see more clearly next week, promised Mr. Véran.
Massive screening took place on Saturday in Bagneux, in the Paris suburbs, where the variant was detected on Friday, and a vast campaign of tests will begin on Monday in Roubaix (north).
The mutation, which appears 50% to 70% more contagious, could already be actively circulating. “We will not escape it”, fears the head of the infectious diseases department at the Parisian hospital of Pitié-Salpêtrière, Eric Caumes.
The indicators of the epidemic remain worrying in the country, with an average of 18,000 cases per day and hospital pressure which is not decreasing (with approximately 2,600 people in intensive care). The toll of the epidemic stands at 67,599 dead in the country.
16,000 new contaminations
Nearly 16,000 new cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in the past 24 hours in France, according to data released Sunday by Public Health France, a figure still far from the government’s target of going down to 5,000 cases per day.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases was 15,944 on Sunday, up from 20,177 on Saturday.
Since Tuesday, the average number of contaminations has been 18,000 per day. This figure has varied a lot since mid-December, ranging between 3,000 and over 25,000.
The positivity rate, which measures the percentage of people positive for COVID-19, continues to increase to 6.5% from 6.3% on Saturday. It was still at 5.2% a week ago.
The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients stands at 24,526 compared to 24,240 on Saturday, with 729 new hospitalizations in one day. In intensive care, the number of patients is 2,620 (+118 in 24 hours), against 2,600 the day before.
Hospitals recorded 151 new deaths in 24 hours, against 171 the day before, bringing the total toll of the epidemic to 67,750 deaths in France.
The next two weeks will be crucial for these indicators, according to experts who fear likely fallout from the holiday season. In addition, there are concerns over the detection of cases linked to the British variant of the coronavirus, known to be more contagious.
23 departments in the east and south-east of France have been under curfew from 6 p.m. since Sunday in an attempt to stem the resumption of the epidemic in the territory.