Officials say the Paris region may be headed toward a new lockdown as new Covid-19 variants fill up hospitals' intensive care wards and limited vaccine supplies drag down inoculation efforts.
Special medical planes dispatched patients from the Paris area to less-saturated regions over the weekend.
“If we have to lock down, we will do it,” the head of the national health agency, Jerome Salomon, said on BFM television Sunday. “The situation is complex, tense and is worsening in the Paris region.”
Salomon acknowledges that a nationwide 6 p.m. curfew “wasn’t enough” in some regions to prevent a spike in cases, notably of the variant first identified in Britain.
The French government has been relying on curfews for months – along with the long-term closures of restaurants and some other businesses – to try to avoid a costly new lockdown. But localised outbreaks are raising questions about the government’s virus-fighting strategy.
Salomon says France has more people in intensive care for Covid-19 and other ailments – about 6,300 – than the overall number of ICU beds it had going into the pandemic.
France reported on Sunday 26,343 new Covid-19 cases, down from 29,759 the previous day.
The number of people to have died from the coronavirus rose by 140 to a total 90,429, of which 65,118 have been in hospitals.
Meanwhile, the number of people in intensive care units edged higher by 57 to 4,127, as pressure grows on French hospitals.
France has the world's sixth-highest total of Covid-19 cases – just behind the UK, where vaccination has proceeded much more quickly.
But French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Sunday evening that the country should do all it can to avoid another nationwide lockdown: "We have to use all weapons available to avoid a lockdown. So let's vaccinate, protect ourselves, get tested," Castex said in an interview on website Twitch.
(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)