In France the rolling news Covid-19 continues with daily statistical updates, health service and lockdown stories and now some emerging proposals for an eventual deconfinement.
Here are some of the key developments from the last seven days.
Covid-19 latest figures
- On Sunday evening, France’s Department of Health announced that in the previous 24 hours, 310 deaths had been recorded in hospitals, bringing the total number of deaths in health facilities since March 1 to 9,253.
- In the country’s 5,218 ‘social and medico-social’ establishments, there were 37,188 confirmed or possible cases of COVID-19 over the entire epidemic period.
- A total of 14,393 deaths have been recorded in France since the beginning of the epidemic.
- Since home confinement began, domestic abuse ‘interventions’ by the police have increased by 40%, said the Interior Ministry, though eventual charges made have dropped by 39%.
- There have been 704,000 breaches of the confinement rules since March 17, following 11.8 million police stops. Just 300 people have lodged a complaint about the manner in which they were treated during such as as stop.
Coronavirus confinement in France extended to May 11
French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the nation live on television last night and announced that home confinement rules would remain in place until May 11, with assessments being made every fortnight. 36.7 million viewers tuned in to watch, a new French record.
Restaurants, theatres, cafés, hotels and bars will remain closed until mid-July at the earliest, while restrictions on public events such as music festivals would also stay in place until then, he added. Schools and colleges would gradually reopen from May 11.
Macron acknowledged that it was a difficult time for those confined at home, especially older people, and also admitted that his government had made mistakes, notably in the supply of PPE, masks, disinfecting gel and gowns. “Like you, I’ve seen delays, weaknesses in our logistics,” he said. “Were we ready for this crisis? Clearly not enough, but we stood up to it.”
Macron added that there would be increased Covid-19 testing on those with symptoms, older people and health care workers, but that testing the whole population “wouldn’t make sense”.
He said the pandemic is “beginning to steady… (and) hope is returning”.
“Joyous days are ahead,” he later added.
Last week, Macron came under fire for visiting healthcare workers on the frontline in the St-Denis area of Paris, which has been especially hard hit by the virus. Critics pointed out that his appearance attracted a small crowd who, after approaching him for photos, were not respecting social distancing regulations.
France appoints lockdown exit strategy minister
The French government has appointed Jean Castex, the Gers-born mayor of Prades (Pyrénées-Orientales) to oversee the gradual deconfinement as the country looks ahead towards post-lockdown life.
Broadly speaking, any future deconfinement plan is likely to feature the maintaining of current social distancing measures, the wearing of masks when outside, protecting the vulnerable and closely monitoring the movement and interactions of those who have had the coronavirus – with the latter measure to include continued isolation where necessary.
Practical news in brief for those living in France
- Could older people living in Europe remain confined until the end of the year? The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyden, said that that “without a vaccine, contacts of senior citizens should be limited as much as possible”.
- The French Grand Prix and Tour de France, as well as volleyball and basketball seasons are the latest sports to confirm cancellation. However, the professional football and rugby top divisions are yet to confirm a definitive end to the currently suspended season.
- Anyone wishing to visit an animal shelter in order to adopt an animal can do so legally from this Thursday, April 16, as long as they have two forms. According to the Ministry of the Interior, “strict rules” must be respected: the animal must be chosen beforehand on the SPA’s (La Société Protectrice des Animaux – France’s RSPCA equivalent) website, a precise appointment must be made and the SPA shelter concerned will issue a certificate with the appointment schedule. On the way to the appointment, the adoption candidate must travel alone and carry, in addition to the certificate issued by the SPA, a usual ‘attestation’ certificate of travel, ticking the “compelling family reasons” box. The SPA had made the request to the government after the closure of its doors to the public last Monday because of the coronavirus epidemic.
- Should you be worried about receiving a parcel from an particularly badly affected region of France or a foreign country? No, not according to the WHO (World Health Organisation). “The likelihood of an infected person infecting goods is low, as is the risk of contracting the virus through contact with a package that has been moved, travelled and exposed to different conditions and temperatures,” the UN organisation says.
- In terms of postal services in France, La Poste says it is inviting its customers to use the Group’s online services (laposte.fr, labanquepostale.fr, lapostemobile.fr) or to postpone their visit to the post office. If your document to be sent or received is urgent, such as a registered letter, you must have the “attestation” exemption printed out (or smartphone version), with the box “authorised travel for essential purchases” ticked. And if you go to a post office more than one kilometre away from your home, you must prove that it is the nearest open site.
- If you have a registered parcel or mail currently sat in a post office that has been closed since confinement, La Poste says that customers whose registered mail or parcels are waiting in a post office closed due to the epidemic will have “two additional weeks from the effective reopening of the office to recover them”.
Unions react angrily to ‘work harder’ calls
One of France’s top union bosses has said that calls by Medef (Le Mouvement des entreprises de France, a union for business bosses) as well as from within the government, for workers to work harder under confinement are “unworthy” and “indecent”.
“It is totally indecent. Today, workers, like everyone else, are paying the cost of this crisis. It’s not up to them to pay afterwards,” said CFDT top man Laurent Berger.
Fine for clandestine Easter service priest
A clandestine Easter Mass celebrated in the church of Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet, central Paris,
earned the priest a fine for breaking confinement rules – but not the 40 or so worshippers.
Known for its adherence to Latin Mass, the service was brought to the police’s attention by locals, who heard the church organ being played.
In March, a priest was ‘reminded of the law’ after celebrating a mass in a private campsite in Isère.
Paris chef opens food market in her restaurant
Chef Amandine Chaignot’s restaurant, Pouliche, in Paris’s 10th arrondissement, was forced to close due to the coronavirus after just six months of trading. So she decided to begin a new adventure… she made a “180-degree turn to continue to make herself useful” and set up a fruit and vegetable market.
She said she was moved by the distress of her suppliers, who suddenly found themselves with no outlet for their produce. “I was on the phone with a producer from the Lot who delivers to me twice a week, he was completely distraught, finding himself without outlets for his fruit and vegetables, as he works mainly with restaurant owners”.
Comedy actor dies from coronavirus
Well-known French comedy actor Maurice Barrier died aged 87 after contracting Covid-19 during a hospital stay in Semur-en-Auxois (Côte d’Or) while being treated for a lung problem.
Noted for his supporting roles, Barrier featured alongside Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Gabin, Alain Delon, Pierre Richard, Gérard Depardieu and Gérard Jugnot in numerous films as well as several hit TV films such as L’Instit and Louis La Brocante.
Also an acclaimed theatre actor, he was awarded the Molière award for Best Supporting Actor in 1998 for his performance in the play Douze hommes en colère (Twelve Angry Men).
Highly regarded sports analyst Pierre Ménès – best known to French football fans for his slot on the flagship Canal+ soccer show Canal Football Club, recently came out of hospital after overcoming the virus. Ménès underwent a kidney and liver transplant in 2016.
Woman gives birth in boulangerie
A Morbihan woman living under confinement in the boulangerie she runs with her husband in Muel (Ille-et-Vilaine), has given birth to a little girl… with the help of the fire brigade.
The father waited outside until the baby arrived and the mother and her daughter were then taken to hospital. Both are said to be in good health.