Chief adviser: Extra confinement ‘crucial’ for France

Confinement must last longer, and “a very widespread use of masks” would be needed post-confinement, the chief scientific adviser said

Confinement in France must “continue for several weeks” beyond April 15 as a "crucial priority”, the chief national scientific adviser and scientific council president has said, as Covid-19 deaths exceed 10,000.

Jean-François Delfraissy, immunologist and president of national scientific advisory council Le Conseil Scientifique, told news service FranceInfo this morning (Wednesday April 8): “Confinement must continue for several weeks starting now.”

France began confinement at midday on March 17, with the measures scheduled to remain in place until at least April 15. A further extension now appears likely.

More than 10,328 people have now died in France from Covid-19-related causes. Since the beginning of March, 7,091 deaths have been recorded in hospitals, in addition to 3,237 in elderly care homes.

In the past 24 hours, 607 people died nationwide - the highest number of reported deaths in one day since the start of the epidemic.

Professor Delfraissy said: “Knowing what we know now, we can discuss what will happen post-confinement, but the essential and crucial priority is the continuation of strict containment over a period of several weeks.

“There are health markers, social markers, and economic aspects. It is a very difficult mix. Health is a priority but it is not the only thing to take into account. Everything will depend on the level of tolerance among the population.”

Professor Delfraissy said that before confinement can end, “intensive care services must start to be a bit more free, to have more beds [and] for the pressure of severe forms of the illness to drop. We need stronger measures in the most-affected areas.”

He said that an end to confinement would only be possible once certain tools of protection were in place.

These would need to include further Covid-19 tests, blood tests for antibodies and immunity, and similar “tracking tools” to see how far the illness has spread among the population, he said.

Similarly, he said that “a very widespread use of masks among the population” would also be needed.

He said: “Wearing a mask is mainly a way to protect others if you are an asymptomatic carrier of Covid-19. But the other way around - does a mask protect you from others? The data [for that] are much less certain or reliable.

“People think that they have a certain amount of protection when wearing a mask. [But] the whole point is to have these normal, non-professional masks, [but] to not think that you’re going to be protected [with a mask alone]. We must keep other protective measures [as well].”

The recommendations come as director general of health Jérôme Salomon also appeared to dismiss the idea of ending confinement on April 15. In his latest update, he said: “Talking about ‘deconfinement’ today makes no sense.”

And French newspaper Le Monde today reported that “a source close to the head of State” said: “It would be premature to speak of a date of exiting [confinement]. We must wait until the number of patients in intensive care has dropped, which is not yet the case. The virus is far from disappearing.”

Read more: France starts Covid-19 plasma transfusion trials

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