Castex in Lille

In this week’s digest we bring you the latest Covid-19 statistics and current measures in place, plus other news from around France

The latest assessment given by health authorities concerning the Covid-19 pandemic showed at least 187,919 confirmed cases (+1,346 in the 24 hours to last Friday, July 31) and 30,265 deaths in total. In the 24 hours to Friday 11 people died in hospital.

The total number of deaths in EHPAD (care homes) and socio-medical centres was 10,515, with the next update due later today. The total number of deaths in hospitals now stands at 19,750.

10 French departments are currently in a “vulnerable situation”: French Guiana, Mayotte, Val d’Oise, Mayenne, Gironde, Vosges, Ille-et-Vilaine, Nord, Haute-Garonne and Haute Savoie.

Four regions (Ile de France, Grand-Est, Hauts-de-France and French Guiana) account for 69% of patients hospitalised in intensive care. In Overseas France, there are 165 hospitalisations, including 38 in intensive care.

There are 157 cluster outbreaks of cases, including 15 new ones.

The Directorate General of Health warned: “Viral circulation is clearly increasing in France… With more than 1,000 cases per day, we have returned to levels comparable to those at the end of the containment period.”

Masks now obligatory in some outdoor public places

Several municipalities have decided to make it compulsory to wear masks in open public spaces, such as streets and markets. The Prime Minister, Jean Castex, was in Lille yesterday to see this measure come into force in certain areas of the Lille metropolis.

Masks are also now mandatory in all public places – including outdoors, except for anyone doing sport – for those aged over 11 in 69 communes in the department of Mayenne such as Laval (Pays de la Loire).

Other places where prefects have enforced such a measure include Nice (Alpes-Maritime), Perros-Guirec (Côtes-d’Armor), Saint-Malo (Ille-et-Vilaine), Biarritz (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) and Orléans (Loiret), while others can follow suit “according to the evolution of the epidemic in each territory,” said Health Minister Olivier Véran.

The French authorities’ message has evolved over recent weeks (as has scientific advice): from masks initially being deemed “useless for anyone in the street” to an obligation to wear one in all enclosed public places on 20 July, and now in certain public areas outside.

Franceinfos has published a handy map detailing those places where it is compulsory to wear a mask in open-air markets (in green), those where it is compulsory in some streets (in yellow) and those where it is compulsory in all streets (in blue).

Here is the map:

French ‘must not let their guard down’

France’s Prime Minister Jean Castex called on the French “not to let their guard down” in the fight against Covid-19, during the Lille visit.”We must protect ourselves from this virus (…) to avoid widespread reconfinement,” added Mr Castex.

Since Saturday, anyone arriving by air into France from any of 16 ‘at risk’ countries must undergo a Covid-19 test. Depending on where they arrived from, passengers must either show proof of a negative Covid-19 test within the past 72 hours, or must take one – free of charge – upon arrival.

With borders effectively closed from places such as the USA, these tests are carried out solely on people “who are French citizens, or citizens of these countries who have a stable residence in France”, ie. those who have the right to travel.

Other news

Eco-car exchange ‘bonus’ is reduced

In June, the French government increased aid to revive the automobile sector, which had been badly affected by Covid-19 and the containment period. This one-off aid was reserved for the first 200,000 buyers, a figure which was reached before Sunday’s deadline.

However, the rules have now reverted to how they were before that date, namely up to €5,000 for the purchase of an electric or hybrid car and up to €3,000 for a recent petrol or diesel car.

This government aid is means-tested, with amounts decided depending on your level of taxation, meaning that poorer households will receive more.

These highest allowances are reserved for those with a taxable income of up to €6,300. A taxable income over €6,300 sees the bonus halved: namely €2,500 for an electric or hybrid and €1,500 for a recent petrol or diesel.

Work begins on reviving Notre-Dame organ

The first stage in a three-year project to bring the sound of music back to Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris began yesterday, with the removal of its organ ‘console’.

The organ was miraculously unscathed by the huge fire that engulfed the church last year but is covered in lead dust.

This ‘cockpit’ has five keyboards for the hands, one for the feet and 115 stops. The organ, which has been in place since 1733, is the largest in France.

This “very delicate” removal phase was “a source of great stress,” commented Christian Lutz, a consulting technician for historical monuments.

The bulk of the work will be to “dismantle each of the 8,000 pipes of the instrument’s 115 stops” in order to clean them, said General Jean-Louis Georgelin, president of the organisation in charge of the restoration of Notre-Dame.

Restoration work on the cathedral is due to finish in 2024, with a musical celebration to be held on April 16 of that year.

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