It goes without saying why Emmanuel Macron chose to address the nation on the last day of March and not on April Fool’s Day about a decision that concerns the country.
“Our strategy is working but with the acceleration of the virus, we will lose control if we don’t act now,” said the president, admitting that “errors have been made.”
The Covid situation in France has deteriorated rapidly over the past week as the virus has accelerated taking hospitals to the edge of care capacity. For the first time in a year, 400 people a day are being admitted to ICU and an average of 35,856 Covid cases a day have been registered over the past seven days (although numbers in departments under restricted measures, such the Alpes-Maritimes and Ile de France, have shown a marginal reduction in cases).
During spring confinement 2020, it took 4 weeks for hospital numbers to stabilize and drop. Last October and November, a decrease in numbers was seen after two weeks. Unfortunately, the number of patients admitted to ICU is now at 5,072 (higher than the peak experienced in fall confinement) with 44% patients less than 65 years old. However, the daily death toll has lowered over the past few weeks.
According to the scientific community, we are still one to two weeks away from the peak of this “third wave” and the government has repeated that France is still facing a few very difficult weeks.
From Friday, all schools across the country will close for 4 weeks. The first week, after Easter Monday, from April 6-9, all schools will be distance learning. The next two weeks, from April 12-23, all zones will have two weeks school holidays. The last week of April, from April 26-30, the younger years, nursery and primary schools will go back to school physically while middle and high schools will remain on distance learning and return to school from May 3.
This impacts 12,352,200 students attending 61,510 French schools with 866,500 teachers. Even counting this closure, France remains the leading country for keeping schools open for students to attend physically since September.
The most recent ComCor study from the Institut Pasteur reports “in the home, having a child in school represents an increased risk of infection for adults, especially those cared for by a childminder (+39%), those in middle school (+27%) and in high school (+29%). The exception is children at primary school, which shows no link to an increased infection rate for adults living in the same household.
Freiner Sans Fermer
The government’s “to brake without closing” strategy has been at a regional level since February. The health measures that have been in force for 19 departments in France will be extended across the country, excluding Corsica. From April 3 and for four weeks until May 2, all non-essential services and businesses will close and a 10km distance from home without a time limit will apply to everyone. Any travels from 10km to 30 km, for medical or family reasons, for example, will require an attestation and controls will be increased at airports, train stations and at highway tolls. Interdepartmental travel will not be permitted (again, unless a compelling reason can be justified and with an attestation) after April 5 (Easter). Any vacation plans in other departments after April 5 will have to be canceled.
Macron indicated the country will return to normal from mid-May, with the opening of some cultural centers and café terraces under strict health protocol, with sport centers, cafés and restaurants from beginning of summer.
8.5 million French people have been vaccinated (3 million have received second dose) and by mid-April, this figure should reach 10 million. The government still assures that 30 million French adults will be vaccinated by the end of June. (1% of all Covid doses in France is wasted, the equivalent of 110,000 vaccinations, while with the seasonal flu shot, 14% of doses are wasted).
“From now on, it is vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate, every day, weekend and holiday” at 1,700 vaccination centers for Pfizer and Moderna, while doctors, pharmacists and nurses will be able to aminister vaccinations for AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson (500,000 doses will be delivered in the second half of April.)
From April 16, 60 to 70 years old can be vaccinated, from May 15, 50 to 60 years olds can be vaccinated. From mid-June, any one over age 18 will be able to be vaccinated.
AstraZeneca has changed its name to Vaxzevria, as confirmed by the European Medicines Agency website which also specifies that the Swedish-British coronavirus vaccine Vaxzevria is “composed of a modified adenovirus that, since it is not SARS-CoV-2 itself, cannot cause Covid-19.”
The Cost Of Covid
Closing schools has direct effects on the the levels of productivity in France. In spring of 2020, France’s GDP plummeted -30% each month of lockdown. For the fall confinement, when schools remained open, the GDP fell -8% in November. This is put to down to parents having to stop work completely because they cannot manage children at home and work commitments 24/7, or they do not have internet capabilities in the home to allow children to follow distance learning and parents to work remotely simultaneously.
Every month, the pandemic costs the state between €7-€9 billion. The level of public debt in France has increased from 98.1% in 2019 to 115.7% in 2020 and is expected to reach 122.4% by the end of the year.
An Elabe poll shows 70% of those surveyed favor a regional confinement and 54% want a strict national confinement. Eight out of 10 people polled in the Alpes-Maritimes would prefer a strict confinement.