France may have to delay progress on COVID-19 lockdown as cases stabilize

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PARIS (Reuters) – France may have to delay lifting some COVID lockdown restrictions next week after the downtrend in new cases flattened after stores were allowed to reopen late last month, two government sources said.

FILE PHOTO: Members of medical staff work in the intensive care unit (ICU) where patients with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are treated at Pasteur hospital in Nice, France November 27, 2020 . REUTERS / Eric Gaillard

France was far from reducing the number of new daily infections to a target of 5,000 and the risk of a rebound for the European Union’s second-largest economy remained high, said Jerome Salomon, a senior official at the Ministry of Health.

The 5,000 threshold was a prerequisite for President Emmanuel Macron to replace the lockdown with a nighttime curfew, allowing cinemas and museums to reopen and ending the need for people to carry affidavits outside from their homes.

Another condition was for the number in intensive care to fall below 3,000. While this threshold can be reached, the downward trend in new cases has stabilized between 10,000 and 12,000.

“That the numbers have stabilized is not good news,” a government source said.

A second government source said there was a link between reopening stores on November 28 ahead of Black Friday and stagnating numbers, adding that it was imperative not to allow people to become complacent.

“We will not go as far as we would like on December 15,” the second official said, adding that the government would consider options such as not reopening theaters and cinemas as planned on December 15 as well as introduction of a curfew earlier than expected. that of 9 pm initially planned.

France can serve as a cautionary tale for other European countries that are either lifting lockdowns or finding ways to ease restrictions ahead of the Christmas holidays.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told her party colleagues on Monday that the existing lockdown restrictions – with bars and restaurants closed and shops admitting limited numbers, as in France – were too weak to bring the virus under control.

Salomon said the next few days would be critical, when asked if it would be premature to further relax the lockdown rules next week.

“We are facing a powerful wave,” he told reporters.

Eric Caumes, head of infectious diseases at the Parisian hospital La Pitié-Salpêtrière, told LCI television that if the French were negligent during the Christmas and end-of-year holidays, there would be a third wave of the virus in mid-January.

The number of people hospitalized for the disease in France increased for the second day – the first time in three weeks.

Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau, Michel Rose and Dominique Vidalon; Written by Richard Lough; Editing by Ed Osmond and Nick Macfie

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