As the December 15 deadline approaches, France is far from reaching the 5,000 target for new Covid-19 cases set by the government as a condition for lifting confinement rules leading some experts to call for caution.
The most recent figures from Santé publique France (SPF) - for December 6 - show that there were 11,022 new cases in 24 hours, alongside 174 deaths. Currently, there are 3,200 people in intensive care across France.
While 11,022 represents a drop from numbers being seen at the end of November, it is still more than double the 5,000 target set by the government, as a number to aim for before confinement rules should be lifted.
The number of positive tests each 24 hours is currently fluctuating between 4,000 and 14,000 per day - including from both PCR tests and antigen tests - with the average currently at 10,500 per day.
On Sunday, the positivity level was at 10.7% - down significantly from the 20% seen a month ago.
The government had also set its target for intensive care cases at 2,500-3,000. On Sunday, the number was at 3,210 - down from 3,220 the day before, but still far exceeding the government aim.
The second phase of deconfinement is set to begin on December 15, with lockdown measures set to be lifted and replaced with a curfew. The first step of the easing of restrictions began on November 28.
Health Minister Olivier Véran said at a press conference on November 26 that "for more than three weeks now, the number of cases has been steadily decreasing” and predicted that “at this rate, we could reach our goal of 5,000 cases per day on average by the second week or the end of the second week of December”.
But some experts have warned the country may not be on track to hit this goal.
Infectious diseases specialists: ‘We are worried’
Over the weekend, Dr Karine Lacombe, infectious diseases specialist at Paris hospital Saint-Antoine, told news channel BFMTV: “We have objectives to reach for December 15, for deconfinement. We are a little worried. [We do not want] so many people to be in intensive care.
“The objective to drop the number of contaminations under 5,000 is going to be difficult, even impossible, because we have even seen a slight rise over the past few days.”
Another infectious diseases specialist, Professor Eric Caumes, from Paris hospital Pitié-Salpêtrière, told LCI today that the case totals were probably staying “stable” due to the drop in public restrictions since December 1.
Professor Caumes said that the government’s recommendation that only six people should gather for Christmas, was “reasonable”. He said: “If we are not reasonable during the festivities, there will be a rebound in the epidemic…[which could] cause a third wave come mid-January.”
He said that going “back to normal” would depend on the public’s cooperation with safety measures and the vaccine campaign from January 2021.
He said: “We will only come out of this epidemic with collective immunity, and it would be better for it to be based on vaccines rather than naturally, because we know the cost of naturally-acquired immunity in terms of mortality rates.”
Press conference tonight
Director general of health Jérôme Salomon is to hold an impromptu press conference at 18:00 tonight, to give an update on the situation.
So far, he is still expected to announce that lockdown will lift on December 15, despite the still-high daily cases.