French hospitals face ‘violent shock’ if ‘explosion’ in Covid-19 cases isn’t curbed

President Emmanuel Macron lowers vaccination age limit as third wave of coronavirus sweeps country

epa09091084 French president Emmanuel Macron during a visit to the valenciennes vaccination center, Valenciennes, France, 23 March 2021. Macron is paying a visit to the center on 23 March accompanied by the Minister of Health Olivier Véran in a move to promote vaccination amongst citizens.  EPA/Yoan Valat / POOL

France’s health system will face an “unprecedented violent shock” in less than a month if Covid-19 cases are not brought under control, leading medical workers said.

The warning came after France imposed a month-long lockdown on Paris and parts of the north to contain highly contagious variants of the coronavirus.

Frederic Valletoux, president of the French hospital federation, said the number of people in intensive care was at a four-month high.

"The epidemic is gathering pace, and the figures are exploding," he told LCI TV.

Epidemiologist and government scientific adviser Arnaud Fontanet echoed the warning, telling BFM TV on Tuesday that more restrictions might be necessary if the measures now in place fail to slow the spread of the virus.

France reported 15,792 new coronavirus cases on Monday, more than double the 6,471 reported last Monday. This was the highest number published on a Monday since the peak of the second wave in early November.

The country also registered 343 new deaths, pushing the official tally of fatalities to 92,621 – the eighth-highest Covid-19 death toll in the world.

Neighbouring Germany also imposed a tougher lockdown after Chancellor Angela Merkel said the country was in a race against time to vaccinate the population.

Mr Macron was forced to change strategy and order another lockdown amid the country’s faltering vaccination campaign and the new variants.

He said on Tuesday France would lower the age from which people can be vaccinated to 70 from 75.

"The heart of the battle in the coming weeks and months will be the vaccination. Morning, noon and night," he said.

"Vaccination is a national priority. There is no bank holiday, there is no weekend for vaccination. So we must, in all the vaccination centres that are opened across the country, fully vaccinate."

Mr Macron said AstraZeneca was "a bit below its (delivery) commitments to us" after Ms Merkel said the EU "has a problem" with the company.

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