France on holiday: Is a second Covid wave imminent?
In the past week, a marked rise in Covid-19 cases was reported across France, in particular in coastal vacation spots. On Friday, the government gave the green light to local authorities to impose face masks in open public spaces.
For several days, the number of new coronavirus cases in France has topped 1,000. The viral transmission rate has also risen to 1.3, meaning that 10 infected people are infecting 13 others on an average.
This follows a post-confinement lull where a marked decrease of Covid-19 cases, as well as less deaths, were recorded.
The return of the French ‘bise’
Health information service Santé Publique France reports a ‘relaxing of regular preventive measures’ among the population, in particular the younger generation. The one-metre social distancing rule seems to have been forgotten by many, and people on holiday have started shaking hands and greeting each other by the famous French ‘bise’, it reports.
France’s Ministry of Health has also warned against being too lax during the sunny weeks to come.
“In this summer period, there will be events with family and friends, as well as large-scale religious and festive gatherings. These are high-risk situations for viral transmission, and participants need to be specially alert.”
Government wary of imposing general lockdown
The government, while anxious to avoid a new outbreak, is wary of clamping down too hard during the summer holidays.
It has stepped up guidance on social distancing as officials report new contagion ‘clusters’ daily.
“France is not experiencing a second wave of the coronavirus” Health Minister Olivier Veran emphasised on LCI television on Wednesday. Veran insisted, however, that it was important “not to lower our guard”
On Friday, Veran gave the green light to local authorities to impose the wearing of face masks in public spaces.
Pour limiter la circulation du #COVID__19 , les préfets pourront désormais par arrêté étendre l’obligation de port du masque aux lieux publics ouverts.— Olivier Véran (@olivierveran) July 31, 2020
Cette décision pourra être prise localement, en fonction de l’évolution de l’épidémie dans chaque territoire.
Coastal cities impose partial lockdowns
Meanwhile several new cities have announced additional measures to contain emerging coronavirus ‘clusters’.
Saint-Malo (Brittanny), whose walled city has drawn tens of thousands of French tourists, said masks were now mandatory inside the old city for everyone aged 11 and over.
Coastal cities like La Rochelle, Bayonne and the nearby ritzy Atlantic resort of Biarritz have announced similar restrictions.
Covid-19 ‘raring to come back’
However, the World Health Organisation pointed out on Wednesday that the use of the term ‘second wave’ was misleading, despite its frequent use by journalists and politicians.
The organisation prefers to consider the pandemic as ‘one big wave’, as the virus did not really ever go away, and does not follow seasonal variations.
Joel Wertheim, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego, told FRANCE 24 that the virus seemed ‘ready to come raring back into any population in the world the moment we let our guard down’.
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