NICE, France (Reuters) – French healthcare workers protested against exhausting working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday and demanded the government hire more personnel.
In the Riviera city of Nice, doctors and nurses gathered in front of a post office to send postcards detailing their grievances to President Emmanuel Macron, part of a day of nationwide protests planned by trade unions.
Marching through the streets, some in scrubs and surgical masks, the healthcare workers called for an end to hospital closures, more staff for emergency rooms and nursing homes, and better pay.
In a direct message to Macron, who announced nightly curfews in virus hotspots on Wednesday, the protesters wrote on one banner: “Hire more. Train more. We’re exhausted.”
Macron said the curfews in the Paris region and eight other cities would drastically reduce the number of daily new coronavirus cases from the current 20,000 and ease the strain on intensive care units, without shutting down the economy.
COVID-19 patients now occupy nearly half of all intensive care beds in the greater Paris region, the head of the regional health authority said. Hospitals in the capital were being told to cancel a third of non-COVID procedures, Aurelien Rousseau told France Inter radio.
Healthcare workers are due to protest in Paris, Nantes and several other locations later on Thursday. Unions said there would be no major disruptions to hospital services.
(Reporting by Eric Gaillard in Nice and Richard Lough in Paris; Editing by Janet Lawrence)