Covid France: Update on cases in 20 high-alert departments

We look at how the health situation is evolving in the 20 worst-affected departments and the rest of France. Some local confinements are expected to be announced later today

4 March 2021
Prime Minister Jean Castex. Covid France: Update on cases in 20 high-alert departmentsPrime Minister Jean Castex and the health minister will speak at 18:00 this evening
By Joanna York

Prime Minister Jean Castex will give a press conference today on possible new health measures for the 20 French departments on ‘heightened alert’ due to rising Covid cases.

Weekend confinements, such as those already in place in Dunkirk and Nice, are being discussed.

Read more: 20 departments await lockdown decision

We look at the health situation in the 20 heightened-alert departments - and the 12 that might soon join the list – and how they compare to the rest of France. 

How are departments classed as being on heightened alert? 

The criteria for departments classed as on "heightened alert" was defined by the prime minister on February 25:  

  • The incidence rate (the number of cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days) is over 250 cases per 100,000 inhabitants
  • The incidence rate is rising
  • Instances of Covid variants account for over 50% of cases
  • Hospitals are under critical pressure

Which departments are on heightened alert or might be soon? 

The map below shows the 20 departments that are currently on heightened alert, marked in red.

Departments in orange meet the criteria for heightened alert and are expected to join the list.  

Those in yellow meet two or three of the criteria and may join the list if the situation worsens.

Departments in red are: Alpes-Maritimes, Bouches-du-Rhône, Drôme, Essonne, Eure-et-Loire, Hauts-de-Seine, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Moselle, Nord, Oise, Paris, Pas-de-Calais, Seine-et-Marne, Seine-Saint-Denis, Somme, Rhône, Val-de-Marne, Val-d’Oise, Var and Yvelines.

Departments in orange are: Aisne, Aube and Hautes-Alpes 

Departments in yellow are: Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Deux-Sèvres, Doubs, Haute Savoie, Isère, Orne, Savoie, Seine Maritime and Yonne.

What is the health situation in the heightened alert departments?

In 16 of the 20 heightened-alert departments, cases of Covid have risen in the past week.

In Alpes-Maritimes, Bouches-du-Rhône, Drôme and Moselle, cases have stagnated or even gone down, but the incidence rate and percentage of variants are still high. 

In Drôme, Eure-et-Loire, Meurthe-et-Moselle and Rhône the incidence rate has now gone below the 250 per 100,000 inhabitants threshold.

How is the health crisis evolving nationally?

The main government indicators used to track the virus show that the overall health situation in France is getting worse.

These indicators include:

  • The incidence rate, meaning the number of cases detected per 100,000 inhabitants in the past seven days
  • The positivity rate, meaning the number of positive tests out of all tests taken
  • The rate of occupation by Covid-19 patients in intensive care beds
  • Deaths in hospital caused by Covid-19

But national trends towards a worsening health situation are being skewed by the 20 worst-affected departments.

The map below shows a fairly even balance between departments where the incidence rate and positivity rate are rising (in dark blue) and departments where they are falling (in pale blue). 

Departments in medium blue have inconclusive data.

The difference between departments is thought to be caused by behavioural differences among inhabitants; the UK variant, which is known to be more contagious; the weather; and travel during the February school holidays. 

Weekend lockdown ‘too late’ to be effective

This comes as a new poll* shows that 65% of people in France are in favour of weekend lockdowns in the 20 worst-affected departments.

But 63% of people also say the measure will be “insufficient” in the current health context, and 66% say that such measures should have been decided on earlier.

Meanwhile, 53% of those polled in the affected departments think a weekend lockdown would be “too restrictive”, compared with 49% nationally.

Of those surveyed, 36% said they would not seriously respect the rules of a weekend lockdown, rising to 55% among 25–34 year-olds, and 62% among 18–24 year-olds.

In lesser affected departments, 82% of people were in favour of current restrictions such as curfew measures being relaxed.

* Poll conducted online by Odoxa-Backbone consulting for FranceInfo and Le Figaro among 1,005 people in France representative of the population aged 18 and over on March 2 and 3  2021.

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