France Set to Miss Goal for Lockdown End as Progress Stalls
Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, gestures while speaking during a news conference. (Photographer: Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Bloomberg)

France Set to Miss Goal for Lockdown End as Progress Stalls

France is poised to miss a coronavirus goal set by President Emmanuel Macron as a condition for lifting the country’s lockdown next week, with daily new Covid-19 cases holding at more than twice the targeted level.

The government is worried about the pandemic indicators, and is mulling alternatives to a planned end of stay-at-home measures on Dec. 15, Liberation reported on Monday, citing unidentified advisers in the Health Ministry. That could go as far as delaying the end of the lockdown should cases spike, according to the newspaper.

France has kept schools and construction sites open during its second lockdown in a bid to avoid more economic damage, and on Nov. 28 allowed non-essential retailers to reopen. After plunging from a peak of more than 50,000 daily cases in early November, the seven-day average of infections has remained above 10,000 for the past week.

French Government Mulls ‘Plan B’ for Lockdown End: Liberation

“We’re a little worried today; it’s true that things went down nicely and then a stagnation,” Odile Launay, an infectious-disease specialists who sits on France’s High Council for Public Health, said on BFM TV. Stores reopening and more people stepping out might explain why the numbers aren’t dropping, she said.

The target set by Macron last month for an average of 5,000 new daily cases by mid-December will be “very difficult” to reach, Director General for Health Jerome Salomon said at a briefing in Paris. The French president is also aiming for between 2,500 to 3,000 Covid patients in intensive care as a prerequisite to lift the lockdown that started at the end of October.

“The decrease in the number of positive cases, after a sharp drop, has been stalling for a week now,” Salomon said. “We’re still far from dropping below the bar of 5,000 cases per day.”

Health authorities will continue to closely analyze the pandemic indicators in coming days, and those will determine whether the government’s plans for lifting the lockdown need to be adjusted, according to Salomon. He warned the French to remain vigilant as the year-end holidays approach and blamed weather conditions and people spending more time indoors for the stall in the case decline.

“The virus will continue to circulate actively over the next few months,” Salomon said. “The year-end holidays raise concern of large-scale intrafamily contamination, as was seen during the Thanksgiving holidays in Canada and then the U.S.”

The rate of positive Covid tests in France has been unchanged at 10.7% since Thursday, data from health authorities show. The most recent virus-reproduction number, which indicates how many people a Covid patient infects, stood at 0.58 as of Nov. 28, with the indicator bottoming out in the preceding days.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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