PARIS (Reuters) – The COVID-19 situation in greater Paris is “especially worrying” and the government will take extra restrictive measures there if the pandemic continues at its current pace, France’s health minister said on Thursday.
While new infections are not growing exponentially, the numbers taken into intensive care have reached a new 3-1/2-months high nationally, close to 4,000, as France faces more dangerous variants.
“At this moment we can say that the variants are more contagious and more dangerous and they now represent more than two thirds of infections in France”, Olivier Veran said.
He said a new patient went into intensive care in the greater Paris region every 12 minutes, adding he did not know when the current peak of the epidemic would be reached there.
France has imposed local weekend lockdowns, on top of a national 6 p.m. curfew, in northern and southern parts of the country. But the government has so far resisted such measures for greater Paris.
In the Paris region, the number of people in ICU units is now close to 1,100 and could reach 1,500 by the end of March if the current trend continues, Veran said, adding that level would be “critical” for the area’s hospital system.
NO ASTRAZENECA SUSPENSION
“We will take all necessary measures if the spread of the pandemic maintains its current rhythm”, he said.
France hopes its vaccination drive will enable it to avoid new restrictive measures. Reacting to some European countries suspending the AstraZeneca shot, Veran said France saw no reason to follow suit.
After the health ministry briefing ended, an official announced that foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian would self-isolate after coming into contact with a family member who had tested positive.
The number of new cases in France went up by 27,166 on Thursday, to 3.99 million, the world’s sixth highest total, versus 30,303 on Wednesday and 25,279 a week ago.
The seven-day moving average of daily new infections stands at 22,105, topping 22,000 for the first time since Nov. 22.
There were 265 new deaths over the past 24 hours, taking the total to 89,830, the seventh-highest in the world, versus a seven-day moving average of 285.
The health ministry also reported that 4.54 million people, or 8.7% of the adult population, had received a first vaccine and 2.16 million had also received a second shot, for a total of nearly 6.71 million injections.
The government aims to vaccinate 10 million people by mid-April, 20 million by mid-May and 30 million by the summer.
(Reporting by Geert de Clercq and Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Toby Chopra and Giles Elgood)