Top doctors have questioned if France will be ready for “deconfinement” on December 1, and have called on the public to “not repeat the errors of the first wave”, which could lead to a “third wave” next year.
The comments come after Prime Minister Jean Castex last night said that the current confinement rules would remain in place until at least December 1, with shops permitted to open afterwards, but not restaurants and bars.
The prime minister said that restrictions would remain in place as they are for at least the next two weeks, but that his “objective is to be able to allow a new easing [of rules] at the time of the Christmas holidays so that the people in France can spend the end of the year festivities with their families”.
But a doctors’ union in France has said that deconfinement must be done carefully, and that the public must work to ensure that this second lockdown ending does not lead to a potential “third wave” of the virus, which could hypothetically require a third lockdown.
Dr Luc Duquesnel, president of GP union le syndicat Les généralistes - Confédération des syndicats médicaux français (CSMF), told news service France Info: “We must, whatever we do, work on educating people to avoid a third wave.”
Dr Duquesnel said that the union shares the predictions made by the prime minister, but that the data suggesting that Covid-19 is retreating should be viewed with caution.
“There is a delay to match up the data, so the numbers are probably higher. Only numbers from hospitals are passed on [daily]. I would say that what is missing is knowing how we are preparing, during this second wave, in terms of prevention, to avoid a third wave.
“What are we doing to avoid further spread? Prevention measures are very difficult. What are we doing so that we don’t contaminate our families? Carehome residents we look after? That’s what we need to work on - otherwise we will see a third wave next year.”
Dr Duquesnel said that he believed Mr Castex had not spoken enough about prevention and had not taken into account “the gravity of the situation”.
He said: “We have failed in terms of prevention [by talking] only of the negatives. When someone says to me: ‘I am feeling suffocated by confinement’, I want to reply that actually, it’s the people who are intensive care, who are intubated, who are really suffocating.”
A 'Covid tunnel'
Another high-profile doctor, Dr Frédéric Valletoux, president of hospital group la Fédération hospitalière de France, has also said he “doubts if the right lessons have been learned from the first lockdown”.
He said: “That is my fear: we really must not mess up this second lockdown. That is why we are asking the government to share, immediately, the conditions of deconfinement [otherwise I am afraid] it will lead to a third wave, and even a third lockdown.
“We must tell the public that there is a ‘tunnel’, which started in February, and hospitals are far from the end. The next few days, into the middle of next week, will be very difficult for hospitals.
“The worst thing is that if people see the numbers going down it may lead to a relaxation in following the rules. That is a spiral that we do not want to see again.”
He also said that hospitals will also face further difficulties, even if Covid does eventually improve, as they will have to deal with the backlog of all the other treatments and operations that have been put on hold due to the virus.
He said: “This, for hospital workers, will be another wave, but we will speak about it less because it won’t be Covid.”