As many French thought they would be placed back into lockdown after Christmas and New Year’s Eve, France has been preventing another strict lockdown so far, unlike several European neighbors.
This past February 4, during his latest press brief, Prime Minister Jean Castex has declared the situation does not require a new lockdown at this stage. Yet, he intended to stay cautious, the chief of the executive suggested he would not hesitate to “take (his) responsibilities” in the event of a “strong and swift deterioration. […] The goal we have to set is not to postpone the deadline, but do everything we can to prevent it” he said.
Jean Castex’s press briefing: no lockdown at this stage
Prime Minister Jean Castex held a press briefing this Thursday February 4, 2021 to address the health crisis in France. According to the government, the current situation does not justify another lockdown to face the coronavirus epidemic.
On February 9, Health Minister Olivier Véran has caused surprised on France Info. “We may never go back into lockdown again” he said before adding that “lockdown is a last-resort choice when the epidemic situation gets out of control. Today is not the case”.
This February 10, the government spokesman has addressed the current health situation and the possibility for France to prevent a third lockdown. At the end of the latest ministerial council, Gabriel Attal thought: “there is a way to prevent lockdown. […] It’s pretty narrow but it does exist and it would be wrong not to do everything we can to make it”, before saying lockdown should be implemented as “a last resort”
“Data seem to decrease over the past weeks” he explained. He went on: “We are still on the same high plateau that seems to slightly decrease for a week. We must remain extremely cautious” Attal yet warned.
But what do the data show exactly? On February 9, the country reported 18,870 new cases and 724 deaths in 24 hours. Even though Covid-19 data are still on a high plateau, they remain stable. Furthermore, the health authorities have noticed the incidence rate decreased over the course of the past two weeks in France. But they could quickly worsen again because of variants that are spreading throughout the country, especially in Île-de-France.
Covid: UK variant found in over 37% of cases in Paris and Île-de-France
Covid-19 UK variant is now set in Paris and Île-de-France. According to the latest data, the UK mutation now represents over 37% of positive cases in the Ile-de-France area.
From that moment on, some doctors are worried about the situation. On February 9, Le Monde has released an opinion column in which Professor in Medicine Bruno Riou calls for a new lockdown. “Let’s quarantine swift and strong, but as short as possible” he said. Thinking the UK variant “will become dominant in the weeks to come” – so does Pr. Arnaud Fontanet thinks – the AP-HP crisis medical director is “firmly convinced that lockdown is the only thing able to prevent this scenario. […] We shall not be afraid of total lockdown” he said, “on the condition it is short: this is the only strategy that proved it was effective in many countries”.
Other doctors seem to share his mind. This is the case of Gilles Pialoux. Invited on BFMTV this February 10, the head of infectiology unit at Paris Tenon hospital, he does “not see how we can prevent lockdown, but it can take on several ways, a local lockdown, and so on. They play on words, perhaps the country will prevent nationwide lockdown”.
Pointing at the different variants, Pialoux warned on the situation in Île-de-France. “There is an incredible outbreak of the UK variant in Île-de-France. Around 39% of the contaminations are related to the UK variant. There are cluster of the UK variant in Île-de-France, mixing caregivers and sick people” he said.
So, will French prevent another lockdown or will it give up because of the threat from variants?