France ready for new lockdown measures to fight Covid crisis

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France ready for new lockdown measures to fight Covid crisis


French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to announce on Wednesday new strict lockdown measures in an attempt to control a third wave of Covid-19 that is overwhelming hospitals across the country, and could be forced to close schools after calls from teachers, doctors and local officials.

Macron’s determination to keep schools open after the first coronavirus lockdown a year ago – unlike orderly closures in many other countries – has been popular in France. But it has come under intense criticism in recent weeks for ignoring warnings from scientists and doctors about the need for tougher measures against the third wave.

“They were so obsessed with schools [staying open] that they did not know the main site of the viral infection, ”said Jean-Christophe Lagarde, deputy for Seine-Saint-Denis, a suburb particularly affected on the northern outskirts of Paris.

He urged Macron to send students home early for the Easter holidays, as saliva tests on students in schools in his constituency suggest high rates of infection. “The virus is circulating faster in schools than elsewhere,” he said. “It will blow up the health care system.”

Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, also called on Wednesday for the closure of schools in the capital.

A student arrives for a coronavirus test at the Lycée de Drancy, in the north-eastern suburbs of Paris © Martin Bureau / AFP / Getty

Hundreds of classrooms and entire schools across France have closed as more infectious variants of the virus took hold, and those closures accelerated this week after a new rule banning all classes took effect. in which a student had tested positive. In Paris alone, 850 classes are closed and 20,000 students are out of school, Hidalgo said.

Even in the UK, where the vaccination program is much more advanced than in the EU, the reopening of schools in England on March 8 has slowed the decline in coronavirus cases.

With more than 95,000 coronavirus deaths recorded in France since the start of the pandemic and hospital intensive care units overflowing in the Paris region and elsewhere, Macron is due to make a televised speech to the nation on Wednesday at 8 p.m.

Jean Castex, his Prime Minister, will address both chambers of parliament on Thursday and there will be a vote on “the evolution of the health situation and the measures necessary to respond to it,” said his office.

Some doctors have warned that intensive care facilities are so stressed that they may have to begin “triage” of arriving patients – deciding who will benefit from available treatments and who should be left to fend for themselves – if the situation does not improve. not.

Others complain that the current controls, including a nationwide curfew from 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. and the closure of bars and restaurants, as well as movement restrictions and the closure of many stores. in 19 departments, are too lax and equivalent to a “pseudo-locking”.

Patrick Bouet, president of the National Council of the Order of Physicians, said France had “lost control of the epidemic”. In an open letter to Macron, Bouet said: “In the face of an extremely serious situation, it is essential that we have stricter measures, and therefore a real lockdown wherever necessary.”

The government is hoping that the lower infection figures reported on Monday and Tuesday compared to the previous week mean that the peak of the third wave has been reached, although there would still be a lag of two to three weeks before the pressure on hospitals does not abate.

“The measures taken 10 days ago could start to prove their worth in the coming days, or not – we will probably find out in the next 24 to 48 hours”, Minister of Health Olivier told the National Assembly on Tuesday. Véran.

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