French health chiefs have been forced to deny that Paris is facing another lockdown despite intensive care wards nearing capacity as they fill up with Covid patients.
Hospital bosses in the Ile-de-France region, which is home to some 12million people and includes Paris, were told to cancel 40 per cent of routine surgeries starting Monday or else run out of beds this week as infection rates creep upwards.
The move sparked fears that the city could be plunged into another shutdown, with French health director Jerome Salomon denying the move is imminent on Tuesday but adding that it could still be used as a ‘last resort’.
France has been forced to bring in some local lockdowns in recent weeks as Covid cases creep steadily upwards amid Europe’s slow vaccine roll-out.
France’s health chief has been forced to deny that Paris could be put into lockdown after hospitals began cancelling routine surgeries to free up intensive care beds for Covid patients (pictured, a graph showing France’s daily Covid cases based on a seven-day average)
France exited its second nationwide lockdown in December but has remained partially shut down ever since, with Covid cases and deaths (pictured) remaining stubbornly high
France exited its second country-wide lockdown in December last year but has remained in partial shutdown ever since, with a nationwide curfew in place from 6pm until 6am, with bars, restaurants, and other entertainment venues shut.
Despite that, case totals have been steadily rising and last week Prime Minister Jean Castex was forced to tighten the rules further.
The Pas-de-Calais department, on the northern coast, was placed into a weekend shutdown while mask-wearing rules were stepped up and large shopping centres closed along with other places where people gather ‘in numbers’.
Now, Paris is facing a fresh health emergency with 973 Covid patients in intensive care and just 1,050 bed available.
That number is growing by around 35 people each day, hospital bosses warned, meaning capacity will be breached this week.
‘This is a very tense situation,’ director-general of the ARS regional health service Aurelien Rousseau said.
Emmanuel Macron has demanded that lockdown measures be eased in six weeks, and said the vaccine roll-out should be sped up to allow for it
France, like much of Europe, is now relying on vaccines to return life to normality after last year’s easing of measures caused a wave of infections and deaths, and with as new and more infectious variants of Covid making it more difficult to control.
Castex has urged health officials to do everything they could to increase the speed of vaccinations to bring cases down – though EU officials have warned that is unlikely until April at the earliest after delays in Brussels held up the programme.
Emmanuel Macron, who has been accused of scaremongering around AstraZeneca’s vaccine and further holding up the roll-out, has now demanded that measures start easing in six weeks and that vaccinations should be sped up to allow for it.
France has given at least one dose of vaccine to around six per cent of its population, while the UK – which parted ways with the EU last year – has handed out first doses to 32 per cent.
On Sunday France reported 21,825 and 130 new deaths. The UK, once Europe’s worst-hit country, reported 4,712 new cases on Monday and 65 deaths.
Vaccination centres in France stayed open at the weekend as Mr Castex called for ‘a national mobilisation’ to boost the number of inoculations.
So far France has administered around 5.5 million doses of the three vaccines authorised for use – Pfizer/BioNtech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca/Oxford University – according to government figures.
Staff at the Melun-Senart hospital, near Paris, work on a coronavirus patient in the intensive care unit amid warnings that beds will soon run out
On Monday, Industry Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said that weekly vaccine deliveries to France would go above two million doses within two weeks.
This meant that 30 million people – two thirds of the French adult population – could be vaccinated by the end of June, she said.
As the country waits for vaccinations to make a dent in infection statistics, the government has resorted to regional weekend lockdowns, with the latest one affecting hundreds of thousands of people in the north of the country.
There has been speculation about a similar move coming for the greater Paris region, but so far the government has appealed to people to behave responsibly, and police banned the consumption of alcohol outdoors in the capital to try to reduce the crowds gathering to enjoy the spring sunshine.