French PM says second wave of virus is here and dramatically extends curfew

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PARIS (AP) – French Prime Minister Jean Castex on Thursday announced a vast extension of the nighttime curfew which aims to curb the spiraling spread of the coronavirus, saying “the second wave is here”.

The curfew imposed in eight regions of France last week, including Paris and its suburbs, is extended to 38 other regions and Polynesia from midnight Friday, Castex said. It will likely last six weeks before a review, he said.

The extension means 46 million of the 67 million French people will be under the 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. curfew that prohibits them from going outside during those hours, except for limited reasons, such as walking a dog, commuting to work. and come back and catch a train or flight. ,

Hours after the prime minister announced the curfews, public health officials reported that France had recorded more than 41,600 new cases of the virus, a daily record since the country began widespread testing. Figures show France is approaching one million confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic, with 999,043 as of Thursday evening.

“In France, like everywhere in Europe, the second wave is here,” Castex said at a press conference, adding that “no one is spared”.

The virus spreads less quickly during the second wave but more widely, the prime minister said. The number of COVID-19 cases has doubled in France in the past 15 days.

“The situation is serious,” Castex said.

The number of daily reported cases recently hovered around 30,000. However, the tally jumped to a new high on Thursday, when health authorities reported 41,622 cases in the past 24 hours. More than 34,200 people have died in France since the start of the pandemic, one of the highest death rates in Europe.

The Prime Minister said the national hospital bed occupancy rate was now over 44% and four regions, including Paris, had more than half of their intensive care unit beds occupied by COVID patients -19, including the Paris region.

Several other government ministers joined Castex at the press conference as he prepared much of the country for home life after dark and the need to wear masks outdoors.

France has used a targeted approach to tackle the virus, but some of the curfewed regions have yet to achieve alert-level infection rates. Castex said these areas are under a curfew for preventative reasons.

In just a week, the infection rate per 100,000 population has climbed 40%, he said.

“The coming weeks will be difficult… and the death toll will increase,” he said.

The French Minister of Health, Olivier Veran, described the speed of the spread of the virus as “alarming” even if it is slower than at the start of the pandemic. The map of areas subject to curfew shows that infections extend beyond large cities and into less populated and even rural areas.

The south coast, from the Pyrenees to Nice, is subject to curfew, as well as a mass of areas in the south-east and central France, as well as plots in the north, east and around Paris. .

The intensive care unit beds present a major challenge, he said, and planned operations are being delayed to free up beds. France has increased its ICU beds from 5,100 to 5,800 but can quickly increase to 7,700 beds to treat patients with COVID-19.

In another step to better monitor the virus, the minister in charge of data and electronic communications, Cédric O, officially announced plans for a new application that provides more information than a previous version, included the number of cases daily. When ready, it will replace the failed StopCovid app, which the PM recently admitted to never downloading.

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