France wants to extend state of health emergency to February

The government proposal will be considered this weekend, as €2.4billion is announced to support hospitals in fighting rising Covid cases.

22 October 2020
People in street wearing masks. France wants to extend state of health emergency to FebruaryThe state of health emergency allows the government to limit freedoms to help fight Covid-19
By Hannah Thompson

The state of health emergency in France could continue until February if a government proposal on the issue is passed this weekend, giving the state extra powers to fight Covid-19.

A state of health emergency was brought in for a second time late last week (Saturday October 17). It was previously in place earlier in the year when Covid-19 first appeared, from March 23 to July 10.

An official state of health emergency is imposed by decree. The government now wants to extend it until February 16 inclusive.

The proposal will be considered in two exceptional sittings of the Assemblée Nationale on Saturday and Sunday (October 24 and 25). It will then be considered in the Senate.

Under the rules, the government has the right to limit - and even ban - public movement, and impose further confinement in parts of the country, or the whole of it. Restrictions are also allowed more locally.

Several cities - including Paris, Montpellier, Toulouse and Grenoble - are already subject to strict conditions - such as a curfew from 21:00 to 06:00 - due to the deteriorating health situation.

More cities and areas are expected to move into “alerte maximale” (maximum alert) level in the coming days, said government spokesperson Gabriel Attal.

Read more: More French cities at risk of curfew

Read more: France curfew: Exemption certificate information  

For example, the curfew is set to be extended from the city of Saint-Étienne, Loire, to include the whole of the department on Friday 23, at midnight.

The director of regional health body the Agence Régionale de Santé said: “Hospitals are under intense strain, which leads us to several measures. Starting Monday, all procedures will be rescheduled, except for emergencies, to free up capacity of medical and paramedic staff, to take on this influx of patients.”

Loire prefect Catherine Séguin added: “We have, for the moment, a sad record of seeing among the worst levels in France. That is justification for our somewhat harsh measures...my objective is that the curfew extends across the department from midnight Saturday.

“This is the last step before [a possible] re-confinement as we saw in March, which we must absolutely avoid.”

 

Hospital funding

As hospitals continue to feel under strain, the government has also confirmed an injection of €2.4billion extra funds to help continue the battle against Covid-19

Health Minister Olivier Véran confirmed the finance in an interview with newspaper Les Echos.

He said “We are making this considerable effort for the nation, which allows us to strengthen care in town, in hospitals, and in elderly care homes. 

“We are adding €2.4billion extra for 2020, to allow establishments to face up to this second wave with all the necessary equipment, and to be compensated financially for the activities they have not been able to do.”

Mr Véran added: “I have every confidence in hospitals’ ability to hold on...but the wave must not rise too high. That is why we have gone into a state of health emergency.” 

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