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French press review 11 October 2014

The Ebola epidemic, which remained buried in the inside pages of the French national newspapers despite running out of control in west Africa, has finally hit the front pages. And there’s a look at the effect of the government’s ecotax climbdown.

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It is right-wing Le Figaro that has broken the silence with which the deadly virus is surrounded in Paris after the government reported the successful treatment of the first French case of Ebola, a nurse who was repatriated from Liberia last month.

While Prime Minister Manuel Valls has warned against unnecessary panic, the past few days have witnessed signs of paranoia in some areas in and around Paris, including two false Ebola alerts in 24 hours.

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In Cergy Pontoise, north of Paris, police placed a whole building under quarantine and in Boulogne-Billancourt, on the western city limits, parents refused to send their children to school on the grounds that the authorities there had allowed a toddler just back from Guinea to enter the classroom.

Le Parisien reports from the Bichat hospital in northern Paris. It was besieged by journalists armed with cameras and OB vans on Friday after rumours spread that a woman had been admitted in the facility suspected of having Ebola.

According to the paper, a heavy atmosphere hung over the hospital throughout the day with panic-stricken patients looking for information while tense-looking guards with walkie-talkies in hand tried to restore calm.

Le Parisien says there was perceptible anger on the faces of some nurses furious about the hospital’s failure to communicate on the matter that had caused the panic. The state of alert was finally lifted in the evening after Health Minister Marisol Touraine announced that tests carried out on the patient were all negative.

However Le Figaro reports that vigilance about a possible outbreak of Ebola in France is now at the highest point with the government on the verge of stepping up controls at airports and the borders in coming days.

The right-wing newspaper paints a portrait of the killer virus, which it claims has the capacity to dismantle the immunity system and quotes French experts who say it can take up to half a day to diagnose the disease.

Libération for its part reports an elaborate Ebola prevention plan presented by Touraine on Friday. It includes a hotline - 0800 13 00 00 - for people with information on suspected cases and those trying to learn more about the killer virus.

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Libé’s special supplement includes a fact check about infection trends in the epicentres in west Africa where the World Health Organisation is reporting a new death toll of 4,033 and European countries dealing with repatriated cases.

The virus knows no borders now, warns the left-leaning newspaper, pointing out that Spain has reported three cases, Germany two, France, Britain, the United States and Norway one each. Liberia is worst hit with more than 2,200 deaths and over 3,900 infections, followed by Sierra Leone with a death toll of almost 900 and about 4,000 people infected and then Guinea with more than 700 dead and 1,300 more having contracted the disease.

The Catholic daily La Croix makes a fervent appeal to the French people not to quarantine themselves at home under the pretext that it will help them avoid being contaminated with diseases they imagine in their heads. The newspaper urges city officials, teachers and parents to avoid spreading rumours and to go out and look for information from the right sources.

Saturday’s papers are also measuring the ravages of the government’s backtracking on the ecological tax reform.

Le Monde says the government had no choice but to cave in to truck companies who were threatening a blockade of the country. The paper puts the budget shortfall of the mind change at 450 million euros, on top of penalties estimated at 800 million euros.
Several transport projects are now in jeopardy as a result of insufficient funding, according to Le Monde.

The respected daily says that the government seems to be about to put the transition from nuclear energy on the backburner. Le Figaro reports that the issue has sparked a violent storm within the left-leaning majority with the former Greens leader Cécile Duflot fuming about a “disastrous error”.
 

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