PARIS - Despite the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines, France is once again under pressure to take new measures to curb a new spread of the virus in the country.
The situation is once again deteriorating rapidly in the French capital. Hospitals in the Paris region are close to capacity and health professionals are rushing daily to find beds for their COVID patients. As of Monday, more than 4,200 patients were in intensive care units across France.
The pandemic’s third wave is a reality in France and health workers have been evacuating seriously ill COVID patients to other parts of the country to cope with bed shortages.
Enrique Casalino, a medical director with Hopitaux de Paris, the largest health system in Europe, describes the epidemic situation as deteriorating in the Paris region where every 12 minutes a new patient enters an intensive care unit. Casalino thinks medical evacuation to other French regions is just a temporary solution that does not solve the current crisis. He says there are only two options: a quick and massive immunization campaign to safeguard 70% of the population, which he doubts is currently achievable in France. The other would be a strict lockdown to prevent the virus from spreading further.
On top of a delay in the delivery of vaccines, France is among European nations that are pausing the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to public concerns about side effects.
Lockdowns have already been imposed in some hotspots in France, including Dunkirk and Nice, but not in the capital region.
A national nighttime curfew has been in force since the end of January, and bars, restaurants, museums, and movie theaters remain closed.
Still, a general lockdown in the Paris region has not been ordered.
Jerome Béglé, deputy director at Le Point, a French weekly, sees a lockdown of the Paris region as equivalent to a national lockdown as this region is the main economic center of France with 12 million people living there and a few tourists still visiting.
With neighboring Italy imposing new restrictions Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron resisted the idea of a third national lockdown.
Jean Castex, France’s prime minister says a national lockdown would be a last resort that cannot be ruled out due to the current situation. He says he would like to avoid one as it would place a heavy burden on the population.
More than 90,000 people have died so far in France due to the COVID. The country is expected to reach a dreaded 100,000-death milestone next month.