President Macron will make a televised speech tonight (October 28) at 20:00 in which he is expected to announce new restrictions to fight against the spread of Covid-19 in France.
The new measures will be finalised this morning in a meeting of the Council de défense attended by the President, Health Minister Olivier Véran and Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin among others.
A source close to the council told news source FranceInfo the new restrictions will be “unpopular, but they will be accepted”.
What new restrictions will Macron announce?
In the days leading up to his speech, different measures have been proposed by experts and government officials, including bringing the night-time curfew forward to 19:00 and a total national reconfinement. Minister for Work Elisabeth Borne told FranceInfo yesterday: “The situation is serious. At this stage we cannot rule anything out.”
A four-week national confinement is likely, according to government sources, and it could begin as soon as Thursday evening (October 29).
A senior minister told FranceInfo: “The virus is picking up speed at a scary pace. We need to act quickly.”
Sources said it is likely that schools and collèges will stay open during the four-week lockdown while lycées and universities will have to return to distance learning. Companies will be strongly encouraged that employees return to working from home.
The nature of this second confinement could have some significant differences – this time around there is increased testing capacity and mask wearing – but the intention remains to limit social interactions as much as possible.
Prime Minister Jean Castex will speak to the press on tomorrow (October 29) to give more details about the new measures announced this evening.
Why are national measures being discussed?
The new measures aim to interrupt the curve of infections in France, which is rising at a “vertiginous” rate, government sources say.
The situation is thought to have deteriorated so far that regional measures will no longer be effective, and a national strategy must be enforced.
Introducing measures at a national level will also help to protect hospital capacity in France’s “green zones”, meaning beds will remain available for possible patient transfers from more heavily infected areas.
How bad is the situation in France?
The new measures are to be announced as patients infected with Covid-19 are currently occupying half of all intensive care beds in France.
Yesterday evening 148 Covid patients were admitted to intensive care, bringing the total to 2,909. During the day on Monday, this figure had risen to 2,761.
The total number of intensive care beds in France is 5,800.
Not all Covid patients are instantly admitted to intensive care when they enter hospital. In the past 24 hours, 2,988 patients with Covid have been hospitalised in general, not counting those who were sent home.
But hospitals are already feeling the strain of the second wave of Covid-19.
Célia Léger, nurse at Robert Ballanger Hospital in Ile-de-France, told FranceInfo: “There are more and more Covid patients, and unfortunately we don’t have any more capacity than during the first wave to take care of them.”
Nurse Aurélie Lesueur added: “In the first wave, at the time, we did not know what to expect. Now we know what to expect, and we are afraid it is going to be even worse.”
Raymond-Poincaré hospital, also in Ile-de-France, has already started taking staff off other services to help treat Covid patients.
Head of intensive care Professor Djilialli Annane said: “30-50% of treatments have been cancelled, with more 'non-urgent' treatments being rescheduled, so that we can free up time and space for staff to reinforce Covid teams.”