A source close to President Emmanuel Macron told newspaper Le Figaro: “We must consider everything, including all the negative scenarios.”
A so-called “second wave” of the epidemic remains a possibility, doctors have said, with countries such as Singapore and China already reporting a second spike of cases after the initial arrival of the virus.
Damien Mascret, a doctor and journalist, told Le Figaro: “It is possible that we might have a ‘second wave’, simply because, at the moment of confinement, we will probably see a major drop in ‘barrier methods’ [such as coughing into your elbow, and staying 1-2 metres away from others] that everyone has got used to up until now.
"So we must be alert to this idea that ‘the epidemic has gone, we have nothing more to fear’.
"It’s up to the government and the media to remind everyone that the virus is still circulating, and will continue to circulate significantly, as [only] a small proportion of the population - between 6-10%, depending on the regions - is immune...so we will probably have new cases at the point of deconfinement.
"So the biggest fear of doctors is a rise in cases in hospitals, and intensive care units filling up again. That is really a severe worry.
"So will we see a ‘flattened curve’ on the graph that will then start to clearly spike again; will the drop [in cases] that we are seeing right now start to speed up again, or will we see several waves, and not just one?
“No-one can answer these questions right now, but health authorities will obviously be monitoring the situation very carefully, and looking at these indicators, to pick up any possible ‘new wave’, which will be closely used to help inform deconfinement measures, and maybe re-impose certain tough measures if the rise in the numbers of cases becomes too worrying.”
Macron: We must stay alert
During a visit to Finistère (Brittany) on Wednesday (April 22), President Macron said: “We are skating on thin ice, and we do not want to take steps backwards. We have made unprecedented demands on the nation [with confinement].
“So we must not ruin all of this effort by trying to go back to normal too quickly, or because we want to rush to say ‘it’s all behind us’. We must be very careful, stay alert, and remember everything we have learned, as long as the virus is still circulating around the country.”
Deconfinement is set to begin in France from Monday May 11, with society restarting bit by bit.
Confinement rules will be lifted, and schools will reopen first, followed by churches, and school sports activities. The reopening of bars, cafés and restaurants will come later, although an exact date has not yet been set.
President Macron had hinted that deconfinement could be rolled out region by region, but it has since been confirmed that it will instead be adapted to “the reality of each area”.
It has also been confirmed that there will be no travel restrictions between regions of France, and that masks will be “recommended” but not mandatory, except on public transport.
Prime minister Edouard Philippe has said that the government will give the exact details as quickly as possible, with the Élysée saying that the full plan is expected to be announced on Tuesday next week (April 28).
During a press conference on Sunday April 19, Mr Philippe added: “From May 11, our lives will not [automatically go back to] life before confinement. Not immediately, and probably not for a long time.
“But together, we have made confinement a success, and together we will make deconfinement a success.”
Sign up to our free weekly e-newsletter
Subscribe to access all our online articles and receive our printed monthly newspaper The Connexion at your home. News analysis, features and practical help for English-speakers in France