The French Prime Minister Jean Castex has warned the population that the second wave of Covid-19 is gaining momentum, as the daily intensive care and death rates continued to rise. President Emmanuel Macron is to hold a special defence council meeting on Tuesday to discuss the next steps.
The number of Covid-19 patients being treated in intensive care in French hospitals jumped to more than 1,500 on Monday, 56 more than the previous day, representing the highest level reported since 27 May.
The national health authority (ARS) reported on Monday that 96 people had died from Covid-related illnesses in France in the last 24 hours, with over 8,000 new infections.
The national death toll now stands at 32,825.
'Strong second wave'
In the Ile-de-France region, which includes Paris (12 million residents) 17 percent of people tested for Covid were found to be positive - a level never seen before, ARS director Aurélien Rousseau told BFM TV.
Nationwide, the “percent positive rate” or “positivity rate” stands at 11.8 percent.
Rousseau said the ratio of new cases in Ile-de-France had climbed dramatically over the last week to 413 infections per 100,000 people. In the 20-30 year age group it was around double, at more than 800 positive cases per 100,000.
"More than 42 percent of intensive care beds are now being used for Covid patients," he added, saying that to make room for the expected wave of new cases, all non-urgent operations and medical treatment not related to Covid would have to be postponed.
Prime Minister Jean Castex called on the French public to exercise responsibility, to remain extra vigilant and avoid large gatherings, as the country faces a "strong second wave" of infections.
His comments come a day before the national defence council meeting on Covid-19 strategy and prior to President Emmanuel Macron's televised address to the nation on Wednesday evening.
Lockdown or curfew?
The question on everyone’s lips: will the government impose another nationwide lockdown?
The short answer is no, according to Jean Castex, who said a national lockdown would be devastating to an already battered economy. But he warned the government could impose local lockdowns in a bid to contain the second wave of coronavirus cases.
"Nothing can be ruled out, given what we're seeing in our hospitals," he said, but added that "it should be possible" to avoid another full lockdown.
On the table for discussion is the idea of curfews in parts of France's maximum Covid alert zones, such Marseille and Paris and the surrounding Ile-de-France region.
This idea has already been touted by some experts, such as the president of the National academy of medicine and former health minister Jean-François Mattéi who said a curfew in the most affected zones would be advisable.
Marlène Schiappa, deputy minister for Citizens issues, told LCI media: “Anything is possible."
Medical personnel under strain
Meanwhile, more than half of French nurses are close to burning out, according to a survey of nearly 60,000 of them published on Sunday, which found they were struggling with cancelled holidays and increased work due to the coronavirus.
The survey carried out by the national French nursing union found that 57 percent of respondents reported being in a "state of professional exhaustion", up from 33 percent before the Covid-19 pandemic struck early this year.
More than a third of nurses said their departments were understaffed compared to normal, and two thirds said working conditions had deteriorated since the start of the pandemic.
"There are already 34,000 vacant nurses' positions at the moment. And worsening working conditions mean we risk seeing even more throwing in the towel," the union said in its statement.