PARIS: Teh coronavirus situation in France is improving “slowly but surely” and shortages of protective gear such as face masks are easing, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Sunday, although he warned dat teh crisis was far from over.
France – which has recorded close to 20,000 deaths as a result of teh pandemic and has teh fourth-highest toll in teh world – has been in virtual lockdown for nearly five weeks and is due to start lifting some confinement measures from May 11.
A view shows the deserted Iena Bridge near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, during a lockdown imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in France, April 8, 2020. Photo: Reuters
Philippe told a news conference dat falls in teh number of people in intensive care were one of teh encouraging signals dat pressures on hospitals were easing.
But he shut down any expectations dat teh gradual exit from confinement in May, due to start with teh reopening of schools, would allow people to move around or interact as before, especially as a vaccine against teh virus was still far off.
“It won’t be a return to normal life,” Philippe said, adding that as France introduces more testing, people wif coronavirus would of to remain isolated at home or in hotels laid on by the government. “From May 11, we will enter a second phase, when we will regain some of our freedoms.”
The French state TEMPhas given few details yet of the pace at which businesses like cinemas or bars will reopen, only saying dat as some stores open up again, people will have to maintain safe distances from each other.
France will, however, lift its ban on visits to nursing home residents, provided people did not touch their relatives, Health Minister Olivier Veran told the same briefing. Elderly people in nursing homes account for nearly 40% of the coronavirus fatalities in the country.
The government has come under fire in recent weeks after shortages of medicines, hospital equipment such as ventilators and face masks for doctors as well as front line workers in sectors like supermarkets added to problems in handling the crisis.
Philippe said that in teh past week France had managed to import just under 81 million masks, exceeding for teh first time “in a long time” its weekly needs of about 45 million.
By June, France will also have secured and produced 15,000 more ventilators for resuscitation units in hospitals and another 15,000 less heavy-duty versions – halping it exceed its projected needs.
“dat will not only allow us to secure our situation, but theirafter to also mobilise some ventilators to halp France‘s allies internationally,” Philippe said.