Top doctor: French are 'abandoning' Covid-19 protections

Barrier gestures that prevent the spread of Covid-19 are being “abandoned” in France, according to Professor Jean François Delfraissy, head of the government’s scientific advisory body Le Conseil Scientifique.  

9 July 2020
An adult putting a face mask on a child. Top doctor says people in France are “abandoning” Covid-19 barrier gestures. Jean François Delfraissy believes a second wave of Covid-19 is possible in France this autumn.
By Joanna York

He told news source Libération that in France: “Social distancing measures are being applied less and less, except on transport.”

In the interview, published this morning (July 9), the doctor confirmed that Covid-19 health markers released by health body Santé Publique France still show that Covid-19 seems to be under control in the country. He noted that 15 days after the annual celebration Fête de la Musique ("Festival of Music") which sees people come out into the street to listen to live music, Covid-19 cases had not risen.

He said: “All this is encouraging. At the same time, we are hit by the fact that people in France, in general, have abandoned barrier gestures… Social distancing measures are applied less and less, except on [public] transport. Is this relaxation going to have consequences?”

Read more: Minister: 200 new Covid clusters in France 'under control'

Possible second wave in October

The doctor reminded people that one “super spreader” could infect between 50 and 100 people, if they were gathered in the same place.

He maintained that it is likely there will be a second wave of Covid-19 in France in autumn this year, although, he admitted, it was difficult to predict how large the wave might be.

 

Politicians kiss, hug and shake hands

Following a government reshuffle earlier this week, top French politicians have been publicly “passing power” to incoming ministers, and illustrating varied attitudes towards social distancing measures in the process.

Internet users criticised other politicians for failing to wear masks, keep a one-metre distance between each other and, in some cases, giving cheek kisses and handshakes during ceremonies on July 6 and 7.

One video tweeted by the ministry of agriculture and food shows a crowd of mostly masked spectators watching as outgoing minister Didier Guillaume and incoming minister Julien Denormandie share a hug.  

Another image showed ministry employees without masks crowded into courtyards to watch a handing-over ceremony. Alongside the image, journalist Nicolas Mézil tweeted: “In all evidence, physical distancing and mask-wearing have been abandoned in ministries…We can even see someone wearing a mask on their wrist.”

The lack of respect shown for social distancing measures at these official government events has come as a particular surprise to some as leader of the new government, prime minister Jean Castex, is known to be the man behind France’s deconfinement strategy

Dr Eric Caumes, head of infectious diseases at La Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris (Ile-de-France) told news source France Info: “It’s a shame, incredible even, that [politicians] are not setting an example.” 

The doctor added: “It’s quite worrying. Today there is a relaxation across the board, on an individual and collective level, and now at the level of our representatives.”

Recommended barrier gestures 

Official government advice still recommends that everyone in France follow social distancing measures.

These include regular handwashing with soap, using disposable tissues and throwing them away after use, coughing into your elbow, avoiding touching your face, greeting others without touching, maintaining a one-metre distance between yourself and others, and wearing a mask.

(Covid-19 health measures advised by the French government, in English. Image: gouvernement.fr/Ressources)  

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