French cities advised to prepare for local reconfinement

The circulation of the virus is “under control but fragile”, according to a notice published by scientific government advisory body Le Conseil Scientifique, which has now advised 20 local authorities to start preparing for local "reconfinements".

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In the notice, Le Conseil does not suggest a repeat of the kind of national confinement that happened in France in March, April and May this year.

But it stressed that “health authorities must now begin putting in place specific plans for prevention and precaution” in case there is a serious rise in the number of cases of Covid-19 in France. The Conseil Scientifique has repeatedly warned of the risk of a second wave of the Covid-19 virus in France, saying that it could be likely to appear in autumn this year.

The council also suggests that 20 densely-populated cities in France prepare for “significant” local confinements.

The 20 cities are:

  • Paris (Ile-de-France)
  • Marseille, Nice, Toulon (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur)
  • Lyon, Grenoble, Saint-Étienne, Villeurbanne (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes)
  • Montpellier, Toulouse, Nimes (Occitanie)
  • Nantes, Angers (Pays de la Loire)
  • Strasbourg, Reims (Grand Est)
  • Bordeaux (Nouvelle-Aquitaine)
  • Lille (Hauts-de-France)
  • Rennes (Brittany)
  • Le Havre (Normandy)
  • Dijon (Bourgogne-Franche-Comté)

Fighting a second wave of the virus is a 'choice'

The suggestion for local, rather than national, confinements comes as the council believes that the public tends to trust local authorities more than national ones. In the notice (made public on August 4) the council cited local confinements in Leicester, UK, and in Germany, as examples that might be followed in French cities.

The council also advised that a second wave will take a different form to the first wave earlier this year, as France is now better equipped to fight the virus. It wrote: “The response to the probable second wave must be different from the response to the first wave, because we [now] have the tools to respond to it. It will be a political and societal choice, not just a health choice.”

The element of choice, it says, comes in how significantly tools to fight the virus such as social distancing measures, Covid-19 testing and France’s StopCovid tracing app, are embraced by the public.

Read more: Why France's coronavirus cases are increasing

Preparations underway in Toulouse

Local authorities in Toulouse have already started responding to the call for local preparations by opening four large Covid-19 testing centres on August 7.

Professor François Chollet, a local official managing the fight against Covid-19 in the city, told news source La Peche that after being open for four days, the centres had already received 2,000 spontaneous visitors.

He said: “It’s proof that people are adhering [to measures to stop the virus] and also that they are wary of the virus.”

However, Professor Chollet warned that relying solely on public take up of measures against the virus would not prevent a second wave. He said: “The problem is managing public spaces. They are schools, creches, cultural places, transports, etc. Inter-service meetings have already taken place and we are thinking about how to make sure we work coherently together.”

He also stressed that local measures may not be successful if there is reduced support from national organisations. He said: “We have already learned a lot about the virus but if we are asked to take inventory and track the virus – something which [national health organisations] Agence Régionale de Santé Occitanie (ARS) and Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (CPAM) already do – it will get more complicated.

"Many things that were the responsibility of the State could now be transferred to us, the local authorities. So, they must also give us the means and the skills [to fight the virus]."

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