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AFP
August 5, 2020

France could lose control of virus spread

World

AFP
August 5, 2020

Paris: France could "at any moment" lose control over the spread of the coronavirus, the government’s Covid-19 scientific council warned Tuesday as official data showed the first rise in intensive care patients since April.

In an opinion prepared for the government, the council warned "the virus has recently been circulating more actively, with an increased loss of distancing and barrier measures" since France emerged from a strict two-month lockdown in May.

"The balance is fragile and we can change course at any time to a less controlled scenario like in Spain for example," it said. And the council warned of a possible "resumption of circulation of the virus at a high level" by autumn 2020, after the August summer holidays.

In the immediate term, retaining control is largely in the hands of citizens and their adherence to anti-infection measures, such as keeping a safe distance from others, regular hand-washing, and wearing masks in public spaces, it said.

Data released by the health department on Monday showed the number of people in intensive care had risen by 13 since Friday, breaking a downward trend observed since April, when French people were under strict stay-at-home orders to curb the spread of the virus.

Twenty-nine new deaths were reported over the same period, bringing the country’s total toll to 30,294. At the height of the outbreak in April, more than 7,100 people were at one point receiving intensive care in French hospitals, which had 5,000 intensive care beds available when the crisis hit.

The country registered thousands of confirmed new infections last week, prompting some cities or regions to impose local restrictions amid reports of people ignoring social distancing and public mask-wearing guidelines.

The rate of confirmed infections has exceeded 1,000 per day since late July. Prime Minister Jean Castex on Monday urged France "not to let down its guard" in order to prevent a new national lockdown.

"We are seeing an increase in the figures for the epidemic which should make us more attentive than ever," Castex said. "I call on every French person to remain very vigilant. The fight against the virus depends of course on the state, local communities, institutions, but also on each of us," he added.

The southern city of Toulouse joined the ranks of local authorities Tuesday taking steps to oblige people to wear masks outdoors in certain situations, on top of the national requirement to cover up in shops and other shared spaces indoors.

The science council said the government’s response to a "probable second wave" of coronavirus infections will have to be different to the first. Meanwhile, hundreds of coronavirus-infected people in Australia’s worst-hit state have been caught flouting stay-at-home orders, authorities said on Tuesday, prompting tougher fines. The southern state of Victoria has endured a second wave of infections over recent weeks that the government has partly blamed on people breaking rules that restrict travel.

Residents of Melbourne, Australia’s second biggest city and the capital of Victoria, are now enduring an overnight curfew, closure of non-essential businesses and mandatory mask-wearing as hundreds of new cases are recorded daily. In a related development, the World Health Organisation on Tuesday, urged Russia to follow the established guidelines for producing safe and effective vaccines after Moscow announced plans to start swiftly producing Covid-19 jabs. Russia said on Monday it aims to launch mass production of a coronavirus vaccine in September and turn out "several million" doses per month by next year.