France began a two-week Spring Vacation on Saturday, with a ban on travel between regions, a daily 7:00 PM curfew and hopes for curbing the coronavirus epidemic as a still chaotic vaccination drive went into acceleration mode.
With no departures for the beach or the countryside, except to drop a child off at relatives, the country is on lockdown for the second consecutive Spring Break, although this time around, parks, gardens and beaches are open and people can spend more than one hour outdoors.
The controversy over clandestine restaurants continues. Over 110 persons dining in one such establishment in the 19th Arrondissement in Paris received citations on the night of Friday to Saturday, while the manager and organiser were held by police, the Office of the Public Prosecutor and the Prefecture said on Saturday.
The Prefecture also confirmed, in a tweet, that a raid carried out at another such restaurant, this time in Saint-Ouen (Seine-Saint-Denis), had led to 62 citations while the manager of the establishment was taken into custody, as BFM TV had reported.
On 10 April 2020, after over a three-week lockdown, France had just emerged from a peak of 7,000 patients in intensive care. One year later, many sectors, including restaurants and cultural establishments, have been closed for five months and the situation is again extremely tense in hospitals after the highly contagious British variant of the virus spiralled out of control in March.
On Saturday, 5,769 patients were in intensive care, whereas the overall capacity of such units countrywide, for Covid and non-Covid patients alike, is 8,000 beds.
The COVID-19 death toll continues to climb, with 301 fatalities in hospitals on Friday, bringing the cumulative total since the start of the pandemic to 98,395. This brings France close to the 100,000-death mark, already topped by Italy and the United Kingdom. France’s average daily death toll for the year 2021 is 340.
One of the few encouraging signs is that, while the virus continues to infect more and more people, last week’s increase was less than that of preceding weeks, “which can attest to a slowdown” in infections, the French public health department reported. However, even if the slowdown is confirmed, the effect will only be visible in hospitals one or two weeks later.
Much hope lies now with vaccination. The rate has been increasing, with over 400,000 jabs administered on Thursday and 500,000 on Friday, although the number went down to 320,000 on Saturday.
Even at this rate, France is still far from overall coverage. While 75% of nursing home residents have had both doses of a vaccine, the rates, in town, are just 35% for people between the ages of 75 and 79, 9% for 70-to-74-year-olds, and 4% among people aged 65 to 69.