French health minister warns that effects of early curfew are fading

·2-min read

According to France's Health Minister Olivier Véran, the 6pm curfew launched in January had "a real effect," on the spread of Covid-19 but that the measure is "not enough roll back the virus". In hospitals, there are still more severe cases than patients who are recovering.

During his weekly press conference on Thursday, French health minister Olivier Véran said that he was especially worried about the new, more contagious Covid-19 strains that appeared in the UK and South Africa. These strains are now active in France.

"We estimate that we've gone from 500 patients per day with these variants at the beginning of January to more than 2,000 patients per day," he said.

He admitted that contamination "within families" is difficult to avoid. Commuting to and from school or work is also a problem with "more contaminations during carpooling than when you fail to wear a mask while taking public transport."

"We are on a plateau which is rising by 10 percent per week. We must still hold on," the minister said.

On Thursday, French health authorities reported 23,770 new cases, less than the 26,916 on Wednesday, and 348 deaths only a slight decline from the 351 the day before. The percentage of people who test positive remains stable at 7.1 percent.

Coronavirus patients occupy nearly 60 percent of the beds in French hospitals, Véran said, a number comparable with October.

Earlier this week, sources quoted by French weekly Journal du Dimanche suggested that a decision to reimpose a third lockdown was on the verge of being announced, adding that only the timing and conditions "remained to be finalised".

On Wednesday government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said that "different scenarios" are being studied, "from maintaining the current framework" (curfew 6pm-6am) to "a very tight lockdown," while the status quo remains an "unlikely" outcome. An in-between solution, such as a weekend curfew or extension of the upcoming winter holidays, remain a possibility.

Emergency Law

On Wednesday, the French Senate adopted an extension of the Health Emergency Law. The government had asked for an extension until 1 June, but Senators shortened that period by one month, setting the final date at 3 May.

The Emergency Law grants special powers to the government, such as restriction of movement in case of natural disasters or pandemics. The current period was to end on 16 February.

Until now, France has had two lockdowns, one in March and one in October.