Prime minister Jean Castex held a press conference Thursday evening although unlike in previous weeks, this was an update on the pandemic rather than to introduce new health measures.
Stating that the “situation does not justify a confinement” but was “particularly fragile with an average of 20,300 new cases and 1,600 hospital admissions per day over the past week. Equally, 6 out of 10 ICU patients have Covid. The positivity rate has been stable around 7% over several weeks.
Still, France has not experienced a third wave like other European countries and at the moment has some of the lowest Covid numbers in Europe.
“More than ever, we must not lower our guard,” commented Castex, “especially with the new strains—British, South African, Brazil—as they are more contagious than before. The British variant in France is up from 3.3% on January 7 to 8 to 14% on February 26 and 27.
The prime minister added, “I must be clear, if we find the situation deteriorates quickly, we will act. We must stand together and act together.”
Last Friday, Castex introduced new restrictions to combat the circulation of the virus. All shopping centers larger than 20,000 square meters have been closed and all travel to and from countries outside the EU were limited to those who had a compelling reason to travel. All cases, departures and arrivals, require a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours.
Alongside minister of health Olivera Véran, minister of interior Gérald Darmanin and Elisabeth Borne, minister of labour, employment and integration, Castex confirmed a three-week re-confinement for Mayotte, the French overseas ministry.
Véran confirmed that 2.4 to 4 million French will receive the vaccination by end of February. From tomorrow, there will be 500,000 vaccine appointments made available for February and from mid next-week, 1.2 million for March. It was announced earlier today it that the Moderna vaccine will be produced in France in March, Pfizer/BioNTech in April and of CureVac in May. Today, 1,615,088 people have received their first vaccination and 102,297 have had the second injection.
Véran stated that there are 4 PRC tests taken every second in France with 92% of the rest results given within 24 hours (some antigentic tests give results in 20 minutes) and saliva tests will be organized in schools after the holidays. He added that since January 20, there have been 16,000 home visits by nurses to those who have tested positive Covid.
As of Wednesday, there were 28,000 Covid patients in hospital across France, up from 32,000 in April and 33,000 last November.
Four departments have exceeded previous thresholds, including the Alpes-Maritimes where there were 741 hospitalizations on Wednesday, against 285 last spring and 480 last fall. In the Var, 583 patients were admitted to hospital yesterday, compared to 325 last spring an 460 last fall.
France reported 26,362 new cases of coronavirus Wednesday with a 6.7% positivity rate.
With the Christmas holidays taking place “without an epidemic outbreak thanks to the responsible behavior” of the French, the government is banking on the collective responsibility of individuals over the coming school holidays, which begin in some areas of the country this weekend.
Since December 15, when the curfew was implemented, 1.9 million controls have resulted in 177,000 fines and from February 1, there has been a 39% increase in controls with 53 fines administered. Expect a further crackdown on movements over the school holidays (and anyone travelling should know the country could be placed in confinement at any moment).
France remains a country divided when it comes to a third confinement. According to a poll by Elabe this week, 55% of the French want a “hard” confinement as seen in March whereas only 50% would be favorable of a “light” confinement like in November.
In Monaco, a kindergarten class at École des Carmes has been closed until February 14 due to a young student testing positive but the school remains open.
Nine people have died from Covid over the past week. 24 new cases were reported Thursday, while 55 patients (incl 36 residents) are in hospital plus 11 people (7 residents) in ICU with 151 people (up from 139) being followed by the Home Patient Monitoring Center.
A press release yesterday from the National Council confirms that from February 1, any Monaco resident wishing to travel 30km from home to France will have to present a negative PRC test taken within 72 hours if controlled or provide a “compelling reason” for travel (see attestation).
Calling these measures “incomprehensible” in view of the neighbourly relations between the two countries and Monaco’s geographical integration within the Alpes-Maritimes, the National Council has sent a letter to the Minister of State requesting that the government open discussions with their French counterparts to find an exception to this decree for Monaco.