France is experiencing its biggest increase in coronavirus cases since May, as discussions over the risk of a new national Covid lockdown grips the country.
Especially since the Prime Minister, Jean Castex, had warned against this possibility last week. “We must not let our guard down,” he urged on Monday, otherwise a return to “widespread lockdown” is possible.
There’s even a term for it: “re-containment” or return to lockdown. And some fear the country is on the brink of that.
As Covid rates climb in many places in Europe, from Spain and Germany to Belgium, France has one of the highest incidences of new daily cases per population. (Although far from the worst).
Still, the fact that those new infections climbed to 2,288 again on Friday – from 288 in July – is concerning. This is the highest level since the end of May, and the numbers seem to be on an upward spiral again.
“In metropolitan France, all the indicators show that the transmission of the SARS-COV-2 infection is progressing and intensifying”, specifies the French national public health agency. And worryingly, he adds, the new wave “concerns all age groups and especially young adults”.
Booming stats can’t just be attributed to more testing Public health points out. Because the jump in infections exceeds that in the number of people screened. Thus, the figures “reflect a real increase in viral circulation”, both symptomatic and asymptomatic.
Everywhere in France, he notes, the risk is increasing again. The number of departments classified as “moderate or high vulnerability” is increasing: 11 in the first case, one in the second.
“Reconfinement”: national or local lockdowns
No wonder then that the media talk so much about the “threat of reconfinement“. A threat “brandished” by the Prime Minister, according to Capital magazine.
« Do you fear a return to full lockdown? Was the title of a program on BFM TV Tuesday. So far, it is likely that there has been more talk at the local or regional level.
For commentator Barbara Lefebvre, “these are just threats”. “We are not going to live in terror,” she told the station. All this while conceding that “the curve of the virus was undeniably taking off,” because people had lowered their guard.
“It’s summer, the virus is circulating and people too, we are outside… the young people are celebrating, there are school camps… logically then, the virus is spreading.
Government plans: 4 possible scenarios
The French government has reportedly prepared four possible scenarios for the evolution of the epidemic and potential lockdowns. These were hatched with top science advisers before the lockdown was fully ended in June, AFP reports.
The four scenarios, “ranging from a controlled outbreak to an out-of-control outbreak, which could lead to a nationwide lockdown,” are as follows:
- The epidemic remains under control with barrier measures. It is “the one in which most countries live”.
- A local resumption of the epidemic leading to local lockdowns. A scenario “very real in certain regions” but largely controlled at the national level. The outbreak is due to “critical clusters”, according to the French scientific council of health experts. Such clusters currently exist in Mayenne in the north of France and in Lille. While one of the most important in the Rhône-Alpes region is linked to a wedding in July in Annecy, the so-called “Venice of the Alps”. These clusters require localized measures, which can lead to local lockdowns if necessary.
- In scenario 3, “the epidemic is out of control”. The slow progression of the virus is over. A massive lightning spread has started again. This would lead to reinforced prevention measures at regional level, from tests to individual isolation, including working at home. Protocols have been developed for populations at risk in the event this occurs.
- Worst case scenario 4: lockdown ahead. This could happen with rapid and continuous outbreaks of infections, with the epidemic “reaching a critical stage again”. What the report claims is possible with increasing non-compliance with preventive measures or “too late detection of clusters”. All of this if it gets out of hand could then lead to another national lockdown.
What Castex said at the end of July would be “catastrophic”, both economically and socially, and “must be avoided at all costs”. Long before that, he says, the possibility of “very localized lockdowns” lurks.
Pressure for masks to be compulsory outside
Castex made his plea last week during a visit to Lille, where doctors are concerned about the rate of new coronavirus infections. Masks are mandatory in many outdoor public spaces in the city of northern France. As in other cities from Nice to Saint-Malo.
Nationwide, they have been mandatory in all indoor spaces since July 22. Now the calls for this rule to be universal are increasing, with the virus.