Lockdown latest from France

At the end of last week, the French Prime Minister extended the night-time curfew to another 38 new départements to cover roughly half of France (46 million inhabitants), red on the map below, including where I live in the Alpes-Maritimes. In total 54 of the country’s 96 mainland départements are now on a night-time curfew. The areas covered grey on the map (below) currently have no curfew in place.

The curfew runs from 9pm to 6am and during that time we’re only allowed out of our homes for essential reasons and we must carry a self-certified permission form stating our reason for being out.  Of course, this is in response to a worsening health situation in France with spiralling numbers of cases and an increasing number of hospitals reporting that intensive care units are filling up with Covid-19 patients.

However even non-curfew zones still have restrictions in place. The ‘rule of six’ on gatherings in private spaces extends to the whole country, although this is a government recommendation rather than an actual rule so we won’t have gendarmes knocking on our door to count our dinner lunch guests.

Masks are still compulsory in all public enclosed spaces such as shops and public transport, while most towns and larger cities (including most of Alpes-Maritimes) have also made them compulsory on the street. Distressingly for my beloved, gyms and swimming pools have once again closed.

Over the weekend France set a new daily record for coronavirus infections with 52,010 recorded in 24 hours, topping 50,000 for the first time. France has also passed the symbolic marker of one million confirmed Covid cases since the pandemic began. Meanwhile, 17% of those tested for the virus now have positive results, up from 4.5% in early September.

Where do we go from here?

On Friday, President Emmanuel Macron said it was too early to say whether a new lockdown was looming, after such a move was imposed nationwide for two months in the spring. Local mayors have also cautionned that further restrictions may have to be put in place.

Since the easing of the first lockdown in May, the French government has repeatedly stressed that the economic and psychological impact of the two months of near-total confinement was too heavy for such drastic measures to be re-introduced.

But as the country’s virus rates continue to spiral, several hospitals in hard-hit areas of the country have sounded the alarm that their establishments are in danger of being overloaded with new patients and asked that the government take tougher measures.

Intensive care rates best indicate the gravity of the Covid-19 situation in the country, because they are the last figure to rise before deaths and highlight the impact of the epidemic on hospitals and the overall health system. France has reported over 200 new admissions into intensive care units per day the past week. On Saturday the country counted 2,491 Covid-19 patients in its intensive wards, much less than during the peak of the first wave of infections in early April (7,019 patients), but more than enough for hospitals to worry about the weeks to come as numbers rise exponentially.

Previously the prime minister had said that the only lockdowns the government would consider were localised ones that targeted the areas suffering the most from the virus. But that was back when the general understanding was that the hardest battles against virus would be fought in the country’s densely populated cities, not in France at large.

The government, health authorities and indeed all of us in France are waiting to see the impact of the curfew on infection rates, but for now the numbers are only rising. Fortunately though, in terms of the number of Covid-19 patients dying, the situation is not as extreme as back in April. France’s daily death toll has been on a level of around 150 per day, compared to over 500 per day in early April. The other statistics are also beginning to accelerate but remain far, far below the levels seen in the spring.

It may be that in order to curb the spread, France introduces either a much stricter and longer nationwide curfew or a second lockdown. Many experts have warned against reopening secondary schools, high schools and universities after the autumn break. What is almost certain is that there will be further measures, whether nationwide or in certain hard-hit areas.

What does this all mean?

I’ll be honest, it makes very little difference to us though I am concerned about the local economy despite the support the government has put in place. Our Domaine is still (thankfully) Covid-free quite possibly because we’ve all been very law-abiding. But clearly others have not. Yes, more widespread testing identifies more cases but that doesn’t account for the rapidly filling hospital beds.

France’s neighbours are all adopting similar strategies. There’s little we can do other than continue to abide by the rules and support local businesses.

Tell us what’s happening where you live?