French President Emmanuel Macron met senior cabinet ministers on Tuesday to discuss possible further measures to fight the coronavirus pandemic following a surge in Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations. The French president is set to deliver a televised address Wednesday on possible means to stem a second wave in the country.
The meeting came a day after coronavirus intensive care treatments exceeded a May 27 peak as France, like neighbouring Spain and Britain, grapples with how to slow the virus’s spread and ease pressure on a once-again strained healthcare system while keeping its 2.3 trillion euro ($2.71 trillion) economy open and protecting jobs.
French government minister Marlène Schiappa said on Tuesday the government could not rule out imposing a curfew on cities such as Paris to curb the spread of the pandemic.
“Everything is being examined. Nothing can be excluded,” Schiappa told LCI television when asked about the possibility of imposing a curfew, after another minister also hinted the government could take such a move.
Her statement echoed Prime Minister Jean Castex’s comments Monday that local lockdowns across France could not be ruled out.
The prime minister’s remarks came as the southern French cities of Toulouse and Montpellier this week joined Paris, Marseille and four other cities in maximum alert status to fight back the coronavirus as Covid-19 cases in France hit a record level over the weekend.
The prefecture of Montpellier, in the south, announced a maximum alert status for the city and surrounding towns starting Tuesday in a bid to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Measures include the closing of cafés and bars. The southwest city of Toulouse was doing likewise following meetings between mayors of surrounding towns and the prefect, the local state authority.
Soaring infections and increased hospitalisations put four other cities on the maximum alert list on Saturday: Lyon, Grenoble and Saint-Etienne in the southeast and Lille in the north.
Leading newspapers Le Monde and Le Figaro reported that curfews in Covid-19 hotspots were one option, a possibility raised last month by the Scientific Council advising the government.
The number of people being treated in French intensive care units for Covid-19 exceeded 1,500 on Monday for the first time since May 27, authorities said.
The new figure of 1,539 is still almost five times lower than an April 8 high of 7,148 but also four times higher than a July 31 low of 371.
Since there are normally more people hospitalised with different illnesses in the autumn than in the spring, health experts fear the hospital system will be quickly overwhelmed if nothing is done to contain the coronavirus.
Macron is set to deliver a televised address Wednesday evening, a day after presiding over a new health defence council to study ways to stem a second epidemic wave.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)