Covid-19 France: Border and variant updates for March 31

More police checks on the roads for Easter, intense pressure on intensive care units, a new variant, and tightened borders with Germany are among the recent updates

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More police checks over Easter weekend

Gendarmerie and police checks will be “stepped up even more” during the Easter weekend, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has announced.

He said that from Thursday March 1, extra checks at péages (motorway tolls) and stations will take place, to avoid the public from breaking the 10km travel rule currently in place for the departments under lockdown.

Local authorities in Lyon condemned the organisation of a “wild party” on the banks of the Saône yesterday, which saw more than 300 people gather with music and drinks in the afternoon.

The prefect of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Rhône region condemned the gathering as “irresponsible and unacceptable” and said they were using CCTV footage and other videos taken at the scene and posted on social media to identify the organisers.

Another gathering of 400 people in Lille, in the Jardin Vauban, was also condemned yesterday, with police attending the scene to ask people to disperse.

Hospital pressure intensifies

Senior hospital staff have warned of even more pressure on hospital beds, with services becoming saturated with Covid-19 patients, amid the discovery of a “new variant actively spreading” in France, according to the Henri-Mondor hospital in Créteil, Val-de-Marne.

Dr Djillali Annane, head of intensive care at the Raymond Poincaré hospital in Garches, Hauts-de-Seine, told FranceInfo that “new measures” should be introduced immediately.

He said that Ile-de-France intensive care units are now so saturated - at 130% capacity - that staff are being forced to make difficult decisions about which patients to prioritise for care.

He said: “We are waiting for people to realise that today the situation has reached a severely critical state. We are there now, at saturation. We now have four or five patients for every [intensive care] bed.”

He called on the government to take “significant and brave decisions to stop or considerably reduce the spread of the virus, because it is the only way to save lives”.

He explained: “With 30,000 to 35,000 new cases per day, if we wait only two days, that means 70,000 extra people will be contaminated. Around 10% of them will end up in hospital, and about 5% of them will go into intensive care, with around one in three people in intensive care who die.

“That is the reality on the ground.”

New Covid variant detected

The Henri-Mondor hospital in Créteil, Val-de-Marne, has detected what it says is a new variant in several patients from Ile-de-France, the south west, and the south east of the country.

For now, nothing suggests that the variant is more or less contagious than the others, but the hospital group Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris (AP-HP), to which the Henri-Mondor hospital belongs, confirmed yesterday that it is “actively spreading today in France”.

It said: “The frequency of detection has continued to increase, with the identification of several clusters, and it has been found more and more frequently in samples tested by the Henri-Mondor AP-HP hospital platform.

“Further studies will be needed to determine whether it is associated with clinical forms of different severity, and whether its sensitivity to antiviral treatments and vaccine protection has changed.”

Germany strengthens borders with France

Germany is set to strengthen its borders with France - as well as those with Denmark and Poland - for the next “8 to 14 days” it has confirmed, to prevent further Covid spread.

Police will not have authority to “send travellers back”, but they will check if they have had a negative Covid test within the past 48 hours, and will ensure they are registered with German health authorities.

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