France may have passed the worst of its second wave of coronavirus infections, the country’s health agency said on Friday, warning however that protective measures should be kept in place.
Thanks to curfews and closures, new confirmed infections fell 40% last week, hospital admissions fell 13% and the number of new intensive care patients fell 9%, said Public Health France.
The data provided new arguments for store owners pushing for permission to reopen during the crucial Christmas season, as the government tried to decide what to do about the upcoming Black Friday shopping spree.
“Although the indicators are still at high levels, they suggest that the peak of the second peak is behind us,” the agency said.
The number of COVID deaths stabilized after several weeks of increases, the agency said, with 3,756 deaths recorded compared to 3,817 a week earlier.
French cities that imposed the earliest curfew are now experiencing the steepest declines in patient numbers, Sante Publique said.
The containment measures had “a direct impact” on patient statistics, which generally began to decline around 10 days after the restrictions took effect.
The government put Paris and a few other major cities on curfew on October 17, with others following suit a week later.
But since October 30, the whole of France has been locked up, even if it is less severe than that observed in the spring, with schools still open and a wider range of stores still welcoming customers.
Sante Public said the encouraging “statistics” should not make us forget that while waiting for the availability of treatments and vaccines, the only way to slow the pandemic and reduce its impact on the health system is still to adopt individual prevention measures, combined with collective measures. . ”
Health Minister Olivier Véran said on Thursday that lifting the lockout was not on the agenda for now.
Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari warned on Friday that it was too early to say whether people could travel on Christmas, saying the COVID trend reversal was still “fragile”.
National rail operator SNCF has cut train schedules by 70%, but plans to bring its network back to normal capacity from December 15.
France’s finance ministry was scheduled to discuss options for Black Friday, a day of sales promotions that falls on November 27 this year, on Friday.
Originally a retail party in the United States, Black Friday has spread around the world, with French luxury department store Galeries Lafayette claiming it generated more revenue on Black Friday in 2019. than any other day of the year.
Government officials said reopening physical stores that day was one of the options on the table, but worried crowds flocking to stores could endanger progress against infections.
The postponement of Black Friday for a week was also subject to discussion, they said.
French stores have complained that the retail day will unfairly benefit e-commerce giants like Amazon if high street stores remain closed.
Amazon’s head of French operations, Frédéric Duval, said his company was in favor of bringing Black Friday back to December 4 “if it allows stores and physical stores to reopen before December 1”.
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