France will remain confined under current conditions for “at least” 15 more days. Two weeks after the second national confinement, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced this Thursday that the pandemic figures are beginning to show some hopeful signs, but that these are not enough to soften the confinement, especially as regards to non-essential businesses, which are the ones that have most pressured the Government to open its hand. This will not be the case because “it would be irresponsible to lift or lighten the device now,” Castex said at a press conference.
“Our confinement strategy seems to produce the first expected effects, although we must be very prudent”, stressed Castex. Therefore, he added, “we have decided to keep the confinement rules unchanged for at least the next 15 days.”
On December 1, and only if health data improve further, businesses now closed could reopen, he has advanced, although the measure would not yet affect either the restaurant sector or gyms, which should remain closed for an indefinite period . Although the declared objective is “a new lightening” of the conditions for Christmas, “so that the French can spend the holidays as a family”, these, Castex has warned, “cannot be celebrated as before”, that is to say, goodbye to the dinners and meetings of dozens of relatives and, above all, to the New Year’s Eve parties. “It would not be reasonable” to have big celebrations, he insisted.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex. In viseo, his statements this Thursday.
Although much milder than that of the spring, the new confinement has provoked deep indignation and concern especially among small businesses that have been forced to close, once again, in one of the most important moments in sales of the year, before Christmas. The Government had hinted that it could review its order to close all non-essential businesses – basically food, although highly specialized businesses such as chocolate shops or tea shops, as well as work materials and technological products, remain open in two weeks confinement. But in recent days, several officials had already thrown a glass of cold water on these hopes, given that the evolution of the pandemic is not as good as it would be desired. “We have not yet reached the peak of the epidemic,” warned the general director of Health, Jérôme Salomon on Monday. According to the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, on Thursday, that peak could be reached in “the next few days.”
France is already close to two million infections since the beginning of the crisis in the spring (more than 1.8 million confirmed cases, according to the latest figures) and a few days ago it exceeded the barrier of 40,000 deaths and the absolute record of 60,000 infections in 24 hours. On Monday, France also recorded the highest death toll in a single day, 551, since the beginning of the pandemic and the situation in hospitals continues to strain, with an occupancy rate of beds in resuscitation of 94.7%, according to the latest official figures. The images of the transfer of critically ill patients from one region to another that had such an impact during the first confinement are produced again, another sign that the worst of the new crisis is still far from being overcome.
“One in four deaths in France is from covid-19”, a disease that causes “one hospitalization every 30 seconds and one admission to resuscitation every three minutes,” Castex highlighted.
Some data are nonetheless encouraging. The incidence rate in one week – number of people diagnosed positive by covid-19 test per 100,000 inhabitants – is still very high, 427.9, but has decreased compared to last week (497 cases per 100,000 inhabitants). Similarly, the rate of positivity stands for the first time in this second wave at less than 20% (19.5%). The reproduction number (R) has also dropped from 1 (it is 0.93), another sign that the epidemic is beginning to subside and that makes the Government feel “prudently” optimistic but determined not to lower its guard for now.
Multiple “transgressions” of confinement
During his appearance, Castex has called not to relax customs. Not a banal demand. According to a survey published this Thursday by the Ifop institute, 60% of French people admit to having “transgressed” the rules of confinement, which allow exits – under affidavit – only to travel for work, to make essential purchases, to accompany people vulnerable, go to medical or official appointments or to “air” for a maximum of one hour a day within a radius of one kilometer of the home.
The Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, has demanded a tightening of the controls – until now most of the French say they have not been checked to see if they had proof of exit – and a “specific attention” in the big cities to the parks and gardens that, in this new confinement, remain open. According to Darmanin himself, between October 30 – the first day of the new confinement – and November 9, 88,455 fines have been imposed for breach of confinement, almost a third of them in the Paris region and 315 more for illegal opening of Commerce.
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