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‘Months’ to know if deconfinement a success in France

It may be weeks or months until we know if early deconfinement in France has been a success, medical experts have said, with the health minister not ruling out a possible second confinement if necessary.

On Sunday night (May 10), ahead of deconfinement beginning, President Emmanuel Macron said: “Thanks to you [the public], the virus has retreated. But it is still here.”

Deconfinement began on May 11, two months after confinement was introduced - with some differences depending on region - with the public now permitted to leave their homes without an attestation form, as long as they maintain social distancing and health recommendations such as wearing a mask - which is now obligatory on public transport.

A rise in the number of Covid-19 cases is expected over the coming weeks as a natural reaction to deconfinement, as new cases spread and the nation’s immunity level remains at just 5-10%.

But experts have said it may be weeks or months before the country will be able to judge if deconfinement has been a success overall, and should continue, or if more stringent measures should once again be re-introduced.

‘Most dangerous period’

Dr. Philippe Juvin, mayor of La Garenne-Colombes (Hauts-de-Seine, Île-de-France), and head of emergency at the European Research Hospital Georges Pompidou in Paris, told news source BFMTV: “We will not know for several months, or at least several weeks. We have four to five critical weeks. We must see where we are and watch it carefully, as [the virus] could start up again.”

Observing whether the virus is returning at a worrying level will take time, Dr. Juvin said, because “there are 15 days for incubation, and it takes around a week for clinical symptoms to develop, until we start to see severe cases”.

He said: “We will know by mid-June to the end of June. This period is probably the most dangerous. This is when the epidemic could come back, and we need to be very alert.”

At this point, doctors will need to consider how many people are in intensive care, and what the intensive care capacity of the country is as a whole.


Second confinement ‘not ruled out’

Professor Yves Buisson, from medical authority l'Académie Nationale de Médecine, said that the country should not see deconfinement as “going back to normal”, but a “gradual and careful exit coming out of confinement”, the results of which will only be visible in a few weeks, “so we know if there are new areas [affected], how many cases, if they are quickly controlled and stopped”.

He said: “It is only after a few weeks of observation that we will know if coming out of confinement has been a success or not, and if we will sadly need - in case of failure - to “reconfine”. Which would be a catastrophe.”

Health minister Oliver Véran has repeatedly said that the second phase of confinement - set to begin on June 2 - will only be rolled out subject to the success of the current first phase.

A final decision on the appropriate next steps will be taken at the end of May.

He said: “If in three weeks things are stable - with a possible marked difference between regions - we will be able to progress to the reopening of some extra shops or green spaces.”

But the minister did not rule out a possible second confinement period “if the virus continues to run wild”.

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