The French region of Dunkirk, right next to the border with Belgium, will be placed under a weekend-long lockdown after an “alarming” rise in the number of coronavirus cases was reported, French Health Minister Olivier Véran announced on Wednesday.
In the vicinity of the coastal town, the rate of infection was around nine times higher than the national average, reportedly as a result of a breakout of the British variant, which is believed to be the cause of around 75% of all regional cases.
“Since 1 February, 45 patients have been transferred to the intensive care unit. This means that in a fortnight we have had to admit as many patients as we normally do in three months,” Justine Leibig, director of the hospital in Dunkirk, told Flemish public broadcaster VRT.
The situation in the region is being monitored from the Belgian side of the border in West Flanders, and police are strongly advising against travelling across borders.
Last Friday, the governor of West Flanders, Carl Decaluwé, ordered reinforced police checks on the border between his province and France, after the British variant was first reported to be circulating in Dunkirk. These were matched by actions on the French side of the border.
According to reports, the local hospital is struggling to keep up with the new number of patients, with its intensive care unit completely filled, resulting in the transfer of patients to nearby cities including Lille and Calais.
Véran has spoken of an “alarming” situation, in which the average age of the patients is younger, Le Monde reported.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex is expected to give a press conference about France’s coronavirus situation on Thursday night, as the country is dealing with a 7-day average of around 21,000 new infections, despite its strict measures which include a curfew from 6:00 PM to 6:00 AM.
The Brussels Times