News digest: Air corridor to France imminent

News digest: Air corridor to France imminent

Here is your weekly French news digest, featuring a Covid-19 update, a travel update for those visiting France and news of big wins for the Greens in French local elections.

On Sunday, the latest information provided by French health authorities concerning the Covid-19 pandemic showed 162,936 confirmed cases and 29,778 deaths in total. There were 26 deaths in 24 hours last Friday (June 26). The number of deaths in EHPAD (care homes) and other socio-medical establishments is set to be updated today. The number of deaths in hospitals stands at 19,290.

France currently has 8,886 people hospitalized, with just 87 admissions in the 24 hours to Sunday. The country has 634 serious cases in intensive care, 15 of which came in the same 24 hours. In total, 75,639 people have been cured from French hospitals.

75 cluster outbreaks of Covid-19 are currently under investigation with Ile-de-France, Grand Est,Auvergne Rhône Alpes and Hauts de France still reporting the biggest number of ongoing cases.

Preventing a second wave (deuxième vague)

Some of the French government focus is now shifting to measures and messages aimed at preventing a second deadly wave of Covid-19 this autumn and winter.

In an interview with Le Monde, the Minister of Health Olivier Véran gave details of the government’s strategy, which will include massive screening to identify “dormant clusters” and in places where spread is most likely, as well as boosting hospital resources. “We must prepare the country for all these hypotheses,” he said.

This will kick of with a “very large-scale” screening test campaign to be launched soon in the Ile-de-France region. In order to “identify possible dormant clusters”, Mr Véran said: “Nearly 1.3 million people living in thirty communes in the Ile-de-France region will receive Health Insurance ‘vouchers’ offering them the opportunity to undergo a virological test in any public or private laboratory, even if they have no symptoms”.

He said the government has already embarked on mass screenings. “This week again, about 250,000 tests have been carried out, about 99% of them negative…”

Another key area of government’s strategy to avoid a second wave is boosting of hospital resources: “We have acquired many respirators, we are consolidating a national stock of resuscitation drugs and, by the end of the summer, we will have more drugs in stock than we used during the first wave,” said Mr Véran.

The number of resuscitation (called réanimation in French) beds will also be boosted: “For the future, and in order to prepare for all eventualities in the case of a second wave in the autumn, we have decided to be able to equip at least 12,000 resuscitation beds in hospitals and to admit 30,000 patients in resuscitation”.

France has joined forces with Germany, the Netherlands and Italy in the Inclusive Alliance for a Vaccine. Together, they recently announced that they have signed an initial agreement in principle with the AstraZeneca laboratory for the purchase of several million doses of vaccine.

Other news in France

Travel update – Air bridges coming this week

The UK government will later this week confirm which countries (almost certainly including France) will form the ‘air bridges’ scheme, allowing quarantine-free travel to and from the UK. A widely reported date for the scheme to start is July 6.

For a full round-up of this, as well as latest airline and ferry travel news, keep an eye on our sister site France Today’s new Le Staycation zone, dedicated to post-lockdown holidays in France this summer. There you will also find lots of practical advice on visiting France as well as many holiday ideas.

Local election gains for Greens

Covid-19 has been knocked off the front pages of newspapers early this week, with the results of the second round of local elections dominating headlines. There was a record low turnout of registered voters – at nearly 60% this was the lowest turnout in Fifth Republic history.

Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party LREM – competing in local elections for the first time – fared very poorly while the Greens made huge strides.

Among the key results:

  • The Greens/Ecologists (Europe Ecologie-Les Verts) had surprise big wins in Lyon, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, Besançon, Annecy, Poitiers and Tours. Party leaders claimed the results indicated “A hope for a beautiful project”, and “a green wave” that “rises in France”.
  • Political experts too said the results were extraordinary. It’s “a real victory,” Vanessa Jérôme, a specialist in political ecology in France told Franceinfos. “Until then, the Greens had never won real big cities.”
  • Incumbent Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgio retains to capital’s top job, a rare victory for the socialists.
  • Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (La Republique en Marche or LREM) wins Le Havre in Normandy, but can name a substitute as long as he serves in government.
  • Louis Aliot became Mayor of Perpignan. It is the first time a candidate from Marine le Pen’s National Rally (Rassemblement National) party has won power in a town with over 100,000 inhabitants.
  • The cities of Besançon, Biarritz and Périgueux will all have a female mayor for the very first time. So will Marseille, where both candidates set to battle out a ‘third round’ of voting are women. Michèle Rubirola of Le Printemps marseillais party did not win an absolute majority.

Fillon jailed over fake job for wife

France’s former Prime Minister and 2017 Presidential candidate, François Fillon, 66, has been found guilty of paying his wife Penelope, 64, €1.156m for work she never carried out as a parliamentary aide.

He received a five-year prison sentence, three of them suspended, while his wife received a three-year suspended sentence.

The charges related to misuse of public funds, receiving money from the misuse of public funds and the misappropriation of company assets.
Fillon was also ordered to pay back over €1million. He remains free pending an appeal.

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