Woman with face mask

Here is your FrenchEntrée Covid-19 news round up from the last seven days, including France’s ‘decontainment’ plans, encouraging news on the latest victim and patient figures and practical advice for residents in France.

Here are some of the main developments from the last seven days.

Covid-19 latest figures

  • The situation continues to improve in French hospitals. As of Monday morning, Covid-19 had caused 22,856 deaths in the country, including 242 new deaths in the previous 24 hours. In hospital, 152 deaths were recorded on Sunday, the lowest daily death toll in five weeks. France’s intensive care and resuscitation units, which had 5,000 beds before the crisis, remain under pressure, with 7,553 people still hospitalised from all causes.
  • However, Jacques Battistoni, president of the doctors’ union MG France, said he believes there are around 9,000 more deaths yet been included in official statistics.
  • France is expected to announce its déconfinement (decontainment) plan later today, following a joint planning effort by elected representatives, unions and employers, the Prime Minister wrote on Twitter. The plan will then be debated by MPs before a vote to pass or amend it. It will focus on six ‘themes’ – health (masks, tests, isolation), school, work, shops, transport and gatherings.
  • The opposition, however, criticised the conditions for the National Assembly vote, and asked for it to be postponed until tomorrow, Wednesday. This was overruled on Monday morning. FrenchEntrée will provide an update on the plans tomorrow.

Masks to go on sale in pharmacies

The other main news from recent days is that “non-sanitary” masks for the general public are to go on sale in French pharmacies. They will cost between €5 and €15 and the government said 15million of these masks will be produced every week.
However, “Half of pharmacies will not have them available” yet, because they have not had time to stock up, warned the Order of Pharmacists.
A note will come with each mask sold, indicating how many times it can be used, said the organisation’s boss Pierre Béguerie. To keep its effectiveness, a fabric mask must be washed after each use for at least 30 minutes at 60° with detergent, according to France’s standardisation association Afnor.

News and practical tips for those living in France

  • The number of job seekers in France increased by 7.1% in March 2020, the largest increase since 1996. This equates to 246,100 more people out of work.
  • Is your car due for its MOT (contrôle technique). ‘Technical inspection’ centres have been permitted to remain open in France (though some have closed voluntarily), and showing evidence of your appointment to the ‘attestation’ check police should not be a problem. Under Covid-19 conditions, car owners have a three-month extension after the due date to get their contrôle technique completed; it is two weeks for heavy goods vehicles.
  • A mountain guide from the Alps has launched an online petition asking the French government to relax confinement exercise rules before May 11 (the current containment end date). Billy Fernandez’s petition claims “Walking in nature is not an attack on social distancing rules and does not lead to a rise in accidents”. So far more than 120,000 people have signed it. You can sign the petition here.
  • More details of public transport post-lockdown emerged with Minister for Ecological Transition Elizabeth Borne telling Europe 1 radio station that disinfection of buses, metros and trams would be reinforced, but that she recommended people use bicycles whenever possible. It had already been confirmed by the Elysée Palace that masks on public transport will be obligatory.
  • Children will start going to school again on May 11 (based on parents’ discretion) – despite scientific advisors recommending a September ‘rentrée’. This is a claim by Franck Chauvin, a member of the Scientific Council. He told franceinfo: “It is important to understand that scientists make recommendations and then politicians make decisions. Scientists essentially only see the health aspect, the President of the Republic has other imperatives that we can fully understand, he makes a decision and there’s no comment on that from us.
    “From a health point of view, if you ask people who are managing an epidemic, they would like everyone to stay at home until there is no longer a case. Obviously, that’s not possible. So decisions have to take into account other parameters,” Mr Chauvin added.
    The Scientific Council recommends the compulsory wearing of masks, a space of one metre between each table and recreation in small groups. According to an Odoxa poll for franceinfo, six out of ten French people remain opposed to the gradual reopening of schools on May 11.

Which French employment sectors are hiring?

While levels of new fixed-term contracts (of at least one month) month plunged by 22.6% in March – a “historic monthly decline”, according to figures published this week by the Central Agency of Social Security Bodies (Acoss) – some sectors are recruiting, notably health and carers, and those working in the food and agricultural industries. “Logically those on the front line in the face of the health crisis: the health sector, social action and personal assistance,” said Catherine Poux, director of business services at Pôle Emploi, France’s employment agency.

5,000 watch streamed funeral services

French funeral directors (Société de pompes funèbres) The Caton Group is seeing more and more people using its live broadcasting system that allows people to virtually attend funerals via their smartphone. Funeral attendance is included in current confinement and social distancing restrictions.

“People must register on our website, on the page created in the name of the deceased with the agreement of the family that transmitted the connection link beforehand,” explained Managing Director Gautier Caton. From there, it is possible to experience the ceremony live (or to follow it later on a delayed basis).

“The master of ceremonies or funeral advisers film the event with their smartphone or tablet,” added Mr Caton, who also said “this technology will continue after the health crisis”. To date, more than 5,000 people have attended a ceremony using this digital solution.

Gardens in France

Animals make a comeback at Château de Versailles

Since the beginning of confinement, the glorious park at the Palace of Versailles – closed since March 15th – has had new regular visitors including squirrels, foxes, geese and rabbits. “The animals have taken possession of the place,” head gardener Alain Baraton told France Bleu Paris.

“From my office window, I’m looking at a black rabbit right now. Normally, the rabbits only come out in the evening, when the gates of the park are closed,” said the gardener. With the early arrival of spring, the abundant flowers are also in full bloom. “The park is beautiful at the moment, it’s exploding with colour. In the Queen’s Hamlet, the lilacs bend under the weight of the flowers.”

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