As the WHO announced that one person was dying from Covid-19 every 17 seconds in Europe, France hit some of its own discouraging statistics this week—it became the first country in Europe to reach 2 million confirmed and reported cases of Covid-19.
The country’s infectious diseases director Jérôme Salomon said on Tuesday, that “this second wave, which we are all facing, is massive, deadly and is straining all of our caregivers and our health system as a whole.”
However, it has also had some encouraging news in that the rate of infections is slowing and the number of new cases in the past week has declined, showing signs that the nationwide lockdown is having an impact on the spread of covid-19 through the population.
Salomon said that public adherence to national coronavirus restrictions is now “beginning to bear fruit” in France. Health Minister Olivier Véran told journalists on Monday that “the peak has passed“.
The statistics look better but hospitals are suffering
As reported by The Local, the R rate (the number of new cases each Covid-19 positive person will cause on average) is less than one—a positive sign. The positivity rate for Covid-19 tests has also dropped and hospital patient numbers are flattening out.
The health minister added that whilst the signs were encouraging, the virus was still at such a dangerously high level that it could easily go back up again if people didn’t keep paying attention to social distancing and keep mostly at home, as they are being asked to do.
AP journalists spent a night in the largest hospital in France’s second city, Marseille, to discover that the second wave is bringing even more people to the ICU than the first wave in April, many in a more serious condition. The doctors and nurses are tired and frustrated that French hospitals are at breaking point once again and that the public is less sympathetic the second time around: a 23-year-old nurse told AP, “before, they applauded every night. Now they tell us it’s just doing our job.”
President Emmanuel Macron will address the nation next week to outline what will happen after 1 December, when the current lockdown finishes— to detail if it will be extended, if people can travel for Christmas and if and when shops can open.
Mental health helpline launched
The French government offered support to anyone feeling as if they can’t cope being in lockdown—after French health services reported a huge increase in reported mental health issues, particularly for those in financial difficulty.
Salomon said that the number of people affected doubled between the end of September and the beginning of November.
He said in a statement, “the psychological dimension of the crisis we are going through is important, let’s continue with our solidarity, attentiveness to our loved ones, our neighbors, our friends.”
The French government issued a list of questions to ask people to judge their mental health, including:
- Is your sleep disturbed?
- Do you feel stressed, irritable or anxious?
- Do you have trouble concentrating, sadness, loss of appetite, lack of energy?
- Have you increased your consumption of alcohol and tobacco?
He announced a new 24/7 helpline which people can call to seek psychological support suffering during France’s second national lockdown. “Let’s take care of each other and don’t hesitate to talk about it, to consult our doctor and get help,” he added.
To date, France has 2,065,100 confirmed cases according to the French government and as of Thursday morning, 46,698 people had died.