Covid-19 in France

Covid infections across France fall below Macron's threshold for reopening

Ludovic MARIN AFP/Archives

As several signs indicate that the coronavirus epidemic may be waning in France, the rate of new infections is now below the threshold of 400 cases for 100,000 inhabitants in all departments. The figure is a significant drop compared to previous weeks, but remains eight times higher than the level at which a public health emergency is normally declared.  

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The national average of new infections is now down to 224 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

Even in the worse-affected departments – the Paris suburbs of Val de Marne and Seine-Saint-Denis, with 391 and 390 cases respectively – the rate of infection is now below the threshold of 400 established by President Emmanuel Macron as necessary before any relaxation of restrictions could be envisaged. 

More than half of French departments are currently reporting between 150 and 250 infections for 100,000 inhabitants.

While the tendency is clearly positive, the latest figures have to be analysed with care. The infection rate is calculated on the basis of test results collected over the previous seven days. With fewer tests carried out on Saturday 1 May, a national holiday, a reduction in the number of cases detected was expected.

Some doctors remain sceptical 

Several medical experts have repeated warnings that the 400 case limit is far too high – and is without scientific significance.

"Shifting the emergency alert level from 50 to 400 means more deaths, more long-term Covid, fewer other operations, and a risk that any relaxation of the rules will submerge the hospitals," said Gilbert Deray, head of the nephrology department in one of the biggest Paris hospitals.

"The threshold of 400 is medically meaningless."

According to another surgeon, Doctor Rachid Bahi, setting the safe limit at 400 cases is "like driving a car in which the brakes work only when you're travelling faster than 130 km per hour".  

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