The explosion of Covid-19 cases in some of France’s overseas territories, where far fewer people are vaccinated than in mainland France, is a “cruel demonstration that vaccination is the most effective way to combat the virus”, President Emmanuel Macron has said.
The president warned this morning (August 11) of a “dramatic situation” in the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe, where an increase in the number of cases has led to an “explosion of severe forms of Covid” and high pressure on hospital services.
“An emergency scenario is now before us,” he said ahead of a weekly Covid meeting with top cabinet ministers.
In Martinique and Guadeloupe, barely 20% of the adult population is fully vaccinated, compared to more than 55% in mainland France, the latest figures from Santé Publique France show.
In Martinique, the incidence rate of Covid-19 - meaning the average number of cases per 100,000 over the past seven days - is 1,200. In Guadeloupe it is higher, at 1,700. France’s government spokesman Gabriel Attal described the figures yesterday as “colossal”.
France’s national incidence rate is 235.
Mr Macron also highlighted concerns about the spread of Covid-19 in mainland France.
He said the situation was worrying in the regions of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Corsica and Occitanie, where the incidence rate is over 500 cases per 100,000 people.
“The health crisis is not behind us, and quite clearly we are going to have to live with the virus for several more months,” Mr Macron said.
France is now publishing Covid-19 data based on whether or not the Covid sufferer is vaccinated.
Current figures show that the national average incidence rate is 260 including only unvaccinated people, and 35 including only vaccinated people.
The number of unvaccinated people being hospitalised is 9.13 per 1million people, compared to 0.76 for vaccinated people.
A lockdown has been re-established in Martinique, with the closure of non-essential shops, holiday rentals, hotels and beaches. Tourists to the island were requested to leave by French authorities on Monday (August 9).
In neighbouring Guadeloupe, 100 new intensive care unit beds have been opened, with 14 new deaths linked to Covid last week. There is also a lockdown there, but France’s Overseas Minister Sébastien Lecornu has said it will have to be toughened.
He said the incidence rate on the island is “a figure that we have never known and never recorded in any territory of the Republic since the beginning of the Covid pandemic”.
Some 274 nurses and 60 emergency services workers have been sent to the two islands from France’s mainland to help.
All unvaccinated travellers from Martinique and Guadeloupe to mainland France must have an essential reason for their trip, take a pre-departure Covid test and agree to be tested again on arrival.
If they test positive, they must self-isolate for a period of 10 days.
These rules do not apply to fully vaccinated travellers.
In Guyana, a weekend curfew will be re-established from this weekend in the most affected communes, running from Saturday at 20:00 to Monday at 05:00.
In French Polynesia in the South Pacific, a curfew will be in place between 21:00 and 04:00 over the whole territory beginning tonight (August 11).
Local authorities have not ruled out extending this to a lockdown.
“On July 16, we had an incidence rate of less than 10, today it's over 1,000,” the High Commissioner of Polynesia, Dominique Sorain, said.
The spread of Covid was very limited in French Polynesia until early August, when it suddenly flared up. As of mid-July, there were no Polynesians in hospital due to Covid-19. Now 159 are hospitalised, including 27 in intensive care units.