The weeks ahead in France “will be difficult” due to Covid-19, Health Minister Olivier Véran has said in his latest weekly press conference, but reminded people that “the stricter we are, the shorter lockdown will be”.
Speaking on November 5 with director general for health, Professor Jérôme Salomon, he said: “The duration of the rules and restrictions depend in large part on us.”
He did not announce any more restrictions on top of those already in place through confinement, but did offer some predictions on the coming weeks, as he advised the public to take the rules seriously.
A mid-November peak if confinement is respected
Mr Véran said that if the lockdown rules are followed, there will be “a peak of 6,000 patients in intensive care by mid-November”. This would be followed by a drop in admissions, and the second wave will therefore be “less intense than the first wave”, he said.
He added: “I deeply believe that lockdown is being respected by the public”, noting that there had been a drop in passenger numbers among transport network RATP.
He called on the public to find their strength “in the face of understandable bitterness, tiredness, and boredom”, and to remember that “a small moment of hesitation” when it comes to the health rules can “turn lives upside down”.
He said that it was “human” to doubt the rules, but that this would “prolong the length of confinement and reduce its impact”.
His prediction comes after a new model study of the possible outcomes of confinement was presented by medical research unit l’Institut Pasteur this week.
A ‘higher and longer’ second wave
Mr Véran reiterated that “if we do not respect confinement enough...we will see a high risk of national saturation [of hospital beds] by mid-November, with more than 7,000 patients with Covid-19 in intensive care, meaning more than 66% of the maximum capacity of our intensive care units”.
The number of beds could reach 10,500 if needed, but this would mean hospitals would be operating under severe pressure.
In this scenario, the second wave could be “higher and longer than the first”, with no peak or stabilisation of cases until at least “mid-December”, Mr Véran said.
The minister said that if the second lockdown had not been imposed, the country had been on track to have 9,000 Covid patients in intensive care, saturating health services which would have been “a catastrophic situation for hospitals and for patients.”
Si nous n’avions pas pris la décision d’un reconfinement, quelle serait la situation aujourd’hui ?— Olivier Véran (@olivierveran) November 5, 2020
La réponse est simple : la situation aurait été catastrophique, avec plus de 9.000 malades #COVID19 en réanimation à la mi-novembre. pic.twitter.com/MNCu7hmK2K
More regional transfers of Covid patients
Mr Véran said that there were currently 4,230 Covid patients in intensive care, including 447 more in the previous day, meaning “more than 85% of intensive care beds are occupied”.
This is “a lot”, he acknowledged, saying that the country required 2,000-3,000 intensive care beds for patients with other conditions.
The situation is especially critical in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, he said. The region has “already made 43 health transfers” of patients to other regions.
The minister said: "Two hundred more health evacuations are planned, as we prefer to prevent than cure”.
A record number of new cases in France
Professor Salomon announced that there had been more than 58,000 cases reported in the previous 24 hours, a record.
He specified: “58,046 people received a positive test yesterday in France.” This is up from the record of 52,518 cases seen on Monday (November 2).
There were 363 more deaths. The total number of deaths in France now stands at 39,037.
Record numbers in Europe
France has had the highest number of cases in Europe, with 1.6 million cases, out of the eight million affected on the continent, Professor Salomon said, adding that the country is performing “more than two million tests per week” with “more than 20% of cases coming back positive” currently.
In total, more than 22 million tests have been done since the start of the epidemic.
He said: “All of France has been affected by this second wave.”