PARIS (Reuters) – Hospitals in the Paris region moved into emergency mode on Thursday, cancelling staff holidays and postponing non-essential operations, as coronavirus patients made up close to half of all patients in intensive care units (ICUs).
Health authorities on Wednesday reported a record 24-hour rise in new COVID-19 infections, with almost 19,000 additional cases reported as the number of people in ICUs nationwide stood at around 1,400, levels last seen in late May.
“Given the pressure on emergency room beds and regular hospital beds, I have asked medical institutions in the region to activate their emergency plan to mobilise all resources and anticipate the coming days,” Paris region health director Aurelien Rousseau said on his Twitter feed.
Two days ago, Rousseau said the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs had already risen above 40% and called on citizens to further reduce their interactions as that is the only way to reduce infections and lower pressure on the hospital system.
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday that further limits on movement would be necessary to contain the resurgent epidemic, although he reiterated that a general lockdown was not on the cards.
France Inter radio reported on Thursday that Lyon, Lille, Grenoble and Saint-Etienne would be put on maximum COVID-19 alert, paving the way for new restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus in those cities.
Health Minister Olivier Veran will announce the decision at a news conference on Thursday evening, it said on its website.
Officials at the French Health Ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.
Paris and Marseille are already on maximum alert. This has resulted in bars in the capital having to close for two weeks and restaurants have had to set up new sanitary protocols to stay open.
France has the ninth-highest COVID-19 death toll in the world, with 32,445 casualties. (https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/)
(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Matthieu Protard and Geert De Clercq; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Gareth Jones)