The change in status to “active circulation zone” means local prefects in Paris (Ile-de-France) and the Bouches-du-Rhône department (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur) now have increased powers to stop the spread of the virus in the two cities.
These include closing restaurants, bars and markets; limiting gatherings with the exception of funerals; limiting access to public transport; and placing travel restrictions of up to 100km for travel by vehicle.
In an interview with news source FranceInfo on August 12, health minister Olivier Véran had predicted the change in status for both cities would happen “in the next few hours or days”.
Cases rise but number of patients in intensive care does not
While cases in France rose above 2,500 in 24 hours for the second day in a row yesterday (August 13), the number of patients in intensive care has remained stable.
Figures published by the health authority the Direction Générale de la Santé show on August 13 there were 374 patients in intensive care in France, 5 less than the previous day.
Director of research on immunology at medical research facility INSERM, Frédéric Altare, told news source HuffPost this is because “young people who develop less serious cases” of Covid-19 are currently more likely to test positive for the virus.
According to Mr Altare, people vulnerable to catching the virus, such as the elderly, are taking precautions to protect themselves, “even wearing masks when social distancing is possible”.
He said: “We see, however, that 18-45-year-olds have little respect for social distancing measures. The first [new] cases clearly appeared fourteen days to three weeks after Fête de la Musique.”
Fête de la Musique is a national celebration in France that traditionally sees crowds of people take to the streets to enjoy live music.
Although healthy young people are less vulnerable to the virus, Mr Altare says contracting the illness can still present dangers. He said: “Young people are not protected from the after-effects Covid-19 leaves behind. Even if one catches a light or asymptomatic form of the illness after-effects can appear.”
There is also the risk that younger generations will transmit the virus to elderly or at-risk contacts at family parties or other gatherings. If this happens, Mr Altare says: “There is sure to be an effect on intensive care. This change in age group [affected] could emerge from the middle or end of October.”